Commentary Magazine


The Unraveling of ObamaCare (continued)

According to the Hill newspaper: “The number of temporary healthcare reform waivers granted by the Obama administration to organizations climbed to more than 1,000, according to new numbers disclosed by the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS posted 126 new waivers on Friday, bringing the total to 1,040 organizations that have been granted a one-year exemption from a new coverage requirement included in the healthcare reform law enacted almost a year ago.”

At best, it appears, the waivers are granted capriciously; at worst, they are handed out to those groups that support the president, as a way for them to escape the costs and burdens of ObamaCare.

This news comes after Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of HHS, admitted to double-counting in the ObamaCare budget in her appearance late last week before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee. As the Daily Caller reported, Secretary Sebelius was asked by Republican Representative John Shimkus about whether $500 billion in Medicare cuts were used to sustain the program or pay for the law. “Then you’re also using the same $500 billion to what?” Shimkus asked. “Say your funding health care. Your own actuary says you can’t do both. … What’s the $500 billion in cuts for? Preserving Medicare or funding the health-care law?”

Secretary Sebelius replied, “Both.”

Representative Shimkus was referring to the recent testimony by Chief Actuary Richard Foster, whose office is responsible for independent, long-range cost estimates and whose testimony before the House Budget Committee blew up the claim that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Medicare provisions could both reduce the deficit and extend the solvency of Medicare, as President Obama has claimed. Mr. Foster pointed out the obvious: this isn’t possible unless you double-count the savings.

It should be said that double counting was always a concern. In December 2009, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warned members about it well before they voted on the bill. “To describe the full amount of HI [Hospital Insurance] trust fund savings as both improving the government’s ability to pay future Medicare benefits and financing new spending outside of Medicare would essentially double-count a large share of those savings and thus overstate the improvement in the government’s fiscal position,” according to the CBO. What’s new is that Republicans were successful in getting Secretary Sebelius to admit this.

It’s quite remarkable, really: we’re still less than a year removed from the passage of President Obama’s signature domestic initiative and already more than 1,000 waivers have been granted and massive double-counting is being done in order to produce imaginary savings. This legislation is as much a monstrosity as many of us predicted, and more evidence is amassing seemingly every week.