Obamacare’s Bermuda Triangle: Disappearing Documents Help Administration Prop Up Health Law
Programs That Were Never Appropriated Money Continue to Spend Unauthorized Taxpayer Dollars, While the Great Obamacare Heist Continues
WASHINGTON, DC – The lengths the Obama administration has gone to stonewall Congress about key programs under Obamacare is unprecedented. In doing so, they’ve sought to prop up the health care law as insurers flee the markets and Americans experience #RateShock.
Meet the Transitional Reinsurance Program, the Cost-Sharing Reduction Program (CSR), and the Basic Health Program (BHP). Both the CSR program and BHP require a Congressional appropriation, but neither ever received one. The Transitional Reinsurance Program requires Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to deposit certain funds it receives from the program into the U.S. Treasury, but the Obama administration has failed to pay taxpayers what they are owed. The three programs make up an administrative Bermuda Triangle, where information on the source of funding is scarce and crystal clear laws are thrown into the abyss. But a deeper dive of these programs identifies even greater concerns – the extralegal actions the administration has taken to prop up their failed law.
Unlawful reinsurance payments
Despite the clear language of the statute, for the second year in a row CMS diverted funds intended for the U.S. Treasury to insurers. Over the last two benefit years, CMS has illegally paid out $3.5 billion in reinsurance payments. Last fall, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office issued a legal opinion concluding HHS did not have the authority to use these funds. The Congressional Research Service issued a nearly identical opinion earlier in the year. CMS has refused to answer Congress’ questions about this illegal diversion of funds to date, forcing the committee to issue a subpoena last year. At a spring hearing, CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt testified under oath that the Treasury would be paid a fraction of the funds owed “this year” (2016) – a deadline that they missed.
Unauthorized payments for Obamacare’s CSR Program
The administration has been unlawfully paying insurance companies from a fund intended for tax refunds. More than an estimated $13 billion has been doled out, despite lacking a lawful appropriation from Congress to make such payments. Last year, the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees subpoenaed documents and information from HHS, Treasury, and OMB to understand the administration’s decision to pay for the program without a lawful appropriation. The committees recently broke through the administration’s stonewall, learning important new information surrounding the source of funding decision making. Several critical questions, however, remain unanswered.
Unauthorized payments for BHP
The administration has already spent $1.3 billion on the BHP, illegally spending from a permanent appropriation used for tax refunds. The Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees have been requesting documents from HHS for months, but the agency has refused to produce the documents, forcing the committees to issue subpoenas last year.
What do these three programs have in common? A complete disregard for transparency and an inability to follow the very law the administration themselves pushed through Congress.
The American people deserve better, and House Republicans have a Better Way.