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Six Birthday Candles, Six Wishes for Obamacare

Mar 23, 2016
Year Six Highlights More Problems with Burdensome Law

WASHINGTON, DC – It’s been six years since Obamacare became law, but this “birthday” isn’t a happy one. From more Americans losing coverage, to failed CO-OPs and struggling state exchanges, the health law is getting worse—not better—as the years go by. Even more troubling is that as the president’s signature legislative achievement falters, the administration is resorting to extraordinary measures, even violating the law to sustain Obamacare. Among the illegal activities are diverting billions of dollars in reinsurance payments to insurance companies, and making cost sharing reduction and Basic Health Program payments without a lawful appropriation.

The committee remains hard at work undoing the damage being done by this law. On this milestone, the mammoth problems can be broken down to six candles and six wishes.

OBAMACARE CANDLE #1: Unlawful reinsurance payments to insurance companies
Despite the clear language of the statute, for the second year in a row CMS is diverting funds intended for the U.S. Treasury so it can hand out more money to insurance companies, in the form of reinsurance payments. Over the last two benefit years, CMS has illegally paid out $3.5 billion in reinsurance payments.

OUR WISH: HHS must immediately stop these funds from unlawfully going to insurers, and send the money to the U.S. Treasury as required by the law.

OBAMACARE CANDLE #2: Unauthorized payments for Obamacare’s Cost-Sharing Reduction Program
The administration has been unlawfully paying insurance companies from a fund intended for tax refunds. More than $5 billion has been doled out, despite lacking a lawful appropriation from Congress to make such payments. Along with the Ways and Means Committee, Energy and Commerce has been requesting documents and information from HHS and Treasury to understand the administration’s decision to pay for the program without a lawful appropriation. Despite the repeated requests, the administration continues to thwart and obstruct the committees’ investigations. Subpoenas have already been issued to Treasury and will be issued to HHS if the administration fails to comply swiftly.

OUR WISH: HHS must stop making these payments and immediately fulfill the committees’ reasonable requests for documents and information.

OBAMACARE CANDLE #3: Unauthorized payments for Obamacare’s Basic Health Program
The administration has also been financing this Obamacare program without a lawful appropriation from Congress. The administration has already spent $1.3 billion on the Basic Health Program, illegally spending from a permanent appropriation used for tax refunds. Along with the Ways and Means Committee, Energy and Commerce has been requesting documents from HHS for months, but the agency has refused to produce the documents, forcing the committees to threaten subpoenas.

OUR WISH: HHS must stop making these payments and immediately fulfill the committees’ requests for documents and information.

OBAMACARE CANDLE #4: Growing uncertainty about Obamacare state exchanges
After a considerable federal taxpayer investment of $5.5 billion, state exchanges established under the health law are struggling to remain financially solvent, especially now that most of the federal funding sources have dried up. Four state exchanges—Oregon, Hawaii, Nevada and New Mexico—have shut down, wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. 

OUR WISH: HHS commits to safeguard taxpayer dollars by conducting robust oversight of remaining state exchanges, and ensures remaining federal grant money is spent in accordance with the law.  

OBAMACARE CANDLE #5: Poor investments in health insurance CO-OPs squandered taxpayer dollars
Of the 23 CO-OPs created under Obamacare, nearly half have failed, wasting over $1 billion taxpayer dollars. It is unlikely that CMS will recoup much, if any, money from these failed ventures. The 11 remaining CO-OPs face significant financial challenges. CMS placed eight of them on enhanced oversight plans because they too may fail. 

OUR WISH: To avoid additional losses, HHS commits to working with the remaining CO-OPs to protect taxpayer investments and shuts down CO-OPs when they become financially unsustainable.

OBAMACARE CANDLE #6: Inability to meet critical deadlines within the law
HHS and other federal agencies continue to miss mandated statutory deadlines within the law. According to the most recent audit, in the law’s fifth year of enactment, HHS had a total of five deadlines to meet between March 24, 2014 and March 23, 2015. Of those five deadlines, they were late, totally missed, or received an incomplete on four. A failing grade is unacceptable, particularly when health care is such a large portion of our economy.

OUR WISH: For the administration to meet their deadlines.