Will Obama's HHS Recover Misspent Federal Funds Or Encourage Pigs At The Trough?

Dan Horowitz
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Posted: Nov 05, 2015 3:00 PM
Will Obama's HHS Recover Misspent Federal Funds Or Encourage Pigs At The Trough?

Whether one hates or loves Obamacare, it is difficult to see a smooth path for policymakers to take to eliminate the now embedded national health exchange system. However, the breadth of the president's signature achievement, its impact on the American people, our healthcare and the overall economy, is yet to be seen. What is obvious is as each month goes by, the extent of the changes continues to develop in negative ways to the vast majority of Americans.

The legislation creating Obamacare was known to be full of errors, ambiguities and unnecessary payoffs to select Congressional Democrat supporters. The subsequent attempt by President Obama and some Democrat governors to establish state-based exchanges was an utter failure of public policy and continues to unravel as a massive waste of federal grants funding. Putting aside the prat fall that was the launch of healthcare.gov, there were so many problems with the creation of the president's favorite achievement, it is necessary to revisit some that are still happening and need Congress to step in and stop the continued chaos.

What is definitively known to everyone outside of the Washington Beltway is the impact of Obamacare on the rest of us. It can be easily measured by every household with the annual spike in the out-of-pocket costs each of us pay - along with a conflicting reduction of what services will be covered next year.

But sadly this isn't all of the story. The failures of the state-based exchanges actually continue to be a drain of taxpayer dollars - with States' Attorneys General pursuing refunds from the companies contracted to build the state-based exchanges (SBE). The Government Accounting Office (GAO) and the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have noted that the SBEs have cost more than $4 billion in taxpayer funds. Less of a cost, but perhaps more disgusting, one of the legislative payoffs buried within the original Obamacare language has now made the situation worse for healthcare providers across the country. The Kerry Kickback has forced HHS for nearly two years to take nearly $1.5 billion of pay increases away from nurses and doctors in 40 states, mostly to increase profits in just one state's hospitals - and without legislative action this will only get worse.

Several months ago, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and several of his colleagues joined together to send the latest in a string of letters to Acting Director Slavitt of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Each of the letters - going back over the past year(!) - have sought to clarify the official opinion of CMS, HHS and the Obama administration regarding the reclamation of federal grant money used by various states to establish the failed SBEs.

Currently it seems the Democrat controlled states - especially those of Maryland, Massachusetts and Oregon - are using the process of recovering the funds from contracting companies as an opportunity to create slush funds for the states legislatures to spend however they like.

Senate Chairmen Hatch and Grassley have repeatedly sought to follow the appropriate and polite channels asking CMS and its parent agency, HHS, to make the administration's position clear while laying out the clear guidelines necessary for the agency to remain the proper steward of taxpayers funds. Perhaps its time that House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and newly confirmed House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady begin to join the Senate's efforts to recoup taxpayer dollars. Perhaps it is time that this fleecing of America to come to light. What is it that these states intend to do with these funds?

Repeated hearings by the Senate Finance Committee on this issue have yielded little action by either CMS or HHS. The Chairmen of the House and Senate Committees should begin drafting legislation to address the misuse of federal funds by reducing the annual Appropriations of HSS by the billions currently being given away to various states with no purposes or mission. It is obvious HSS neither needs nor wants those funds. During a time of shrinking federal budgets why should we continue to allow HSS throw out these funds for no reason?

Similarly, Congress must act to pass targeted legislation and eliminate the so-called "Kerry Kickback". The same Agency, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), has been forced to send more than $1.4 billion in federal funding just to the state of Massachusetts to the detriment of hospital personnel in 40 other states. Key Democrats, like House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid are blocking this legislation because their own states of California and Nevada are receiving a comparatively slight benefit from the corruption of the same program mission (680 and 14 million respectively) but it is time to stop this betrayal of American health service workers in the rest of America.

We may not be able to stop the massive changes happening to our healthcare system due to Obamacare but Congress has an obligation to stop the more disgusting faults from continuing to make a poor situation worse.