The Magazine

Obama’s Senior Swindle

May 7, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 32 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

As Ben Sasse, HHS’s assistant secretary for planning and evaluation until early 2009 and now the president of Midland University, says, “If a presidential administration can simply make up the authority to make law and give itself the power of the purse to implement its new law—which not only isn’t designed to make existing law work but is actually against the purpose of existing law—why do we need a Congress?” Sasse adds, “In scope and intention, this is something completely new, and if it’s allowed to establish precedent, the only limit on what future administrations could spend money on, or how much they could unilaterally spend, would be their own electoral calculations about what they could get away with.”

Obama’s calculation appears to be that he can get away with a lot. But that may be wrong. Obamacare would be unpopular enough if it were simply a 2,700-page affront to Americans’ liberty and their country’s fiscal solvency. However, the overhaul’s reputation has been further sullied by the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, Gator Aid, and the rest of the shady backroom deals the Democrats struck to secure its passage. By now initiating the Senior Swindle, Obama risks tarnishing Obama-care’s reputation even further.

Given the president’s mindset—his singular desire to impose Obamacare coupled with his frequent disregard for legal forms—he presumably felt he had no choice. Seniors wouldn’t just sit quietly while their Medicare Advantage plans went away. You can’t siphon $204 billion (the amount projected by the Congressional Budget Office) out of a popular program in just eight years’ time (and far more in the years to follow), spend it on your unpopular health care overhaul, and have no one notice. 

Roughly 12 million seniors have chosen to carry Medicare Advantage. Most like it and want to keep it. They surely don’t want the funding for their plan cut by an average of $17,000 per senior over the rest of this decade, as would happen under Obamacare. They similarly don’t want to see the Medicare chief actuary’s prediction come true: that by 2017, enrollment in Medicare Advantage will decrease by half from what it would have been without Obamacare.

But it’s not just Medicare Advantage beneficiaries who have cause for concern. Under Obamacare, other Medicare enrollees would struggle to find doctors, as (according to the Medicare chief actuary) Medicare reimbursement rates would drop below even Medicaid reimbursement rates by the end of this decade. Also by the end of the decade, the CBO suggests, Obama-care will cause 5 million people to lose their employer-sponsored insurance—almost certainly a lowball estimate. Joel Ario, Obama’s initial head of the Office of Health Insurance Exchanges, said that if Obama-care’s “exchanges work pretty well, then the employer can say, ‘This is a great thing. I can now dump my people into the exchange, and it would be good for them, good for me.’ ” This doesn’t quite have the same reassuring ring as, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” But it does have the benefit of sounding true.

The Senior Swindle provides a further reminder of the unseemliness of Obamacare, a preview of the politicizing of medicine that Obamacare would spawn, and an example of the unprincipled side of our politics. But mostly it offers a testament to the Founders’ wisdom in making our government leaders accountable to the people. The American people have now been living under the looming specter of Obamacare for more than two years. In the fall, they will finally get to issue their verdict on its architect. The bet here is that $8.35 billion in unscrupulously—and perhaps illegally—allocated diversionary funds won’t be enough to keep the citizenry from voting Obama out of office in November and insisting on the repeal of Obamacare in January. In fact, it might serve as a catalyst.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers