To the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, and Gator Aid, President Obama has now added the Senior Swindle — a ploy to spend $8.35 billion in taxpayer money to hide the effects of Obamacare’s Medicare Advantage cuts until after the election. Under Obamacare, millions of seniors would lose their Medicare Advantage plans, as hundreds of billions of dollars that would have been spent on those plans would instead be spent on Obamacare. In fact, the Medicare chief actuary says that, within 5 years, Obamacare would cause the number of seniors on Medicare Advantage to be cut in half (in comparison to how things would have been without Obamacare — or how they would be if it’s repealed).
The Obama administration is claiming that this expenditure of $8.35 billion is legal because this money is being spent, the administration claims, on a legitimate “demonstration project” to help improve the implementation of current law. But, as a report recently released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicates, nothing about this “demonstration project” appears to have been designed to improve the implementation of current law. Rather, the project appears to have been designed to hide the effects of current law — by delaying the Medicare Advantage cuts — until after Obama’s reelection bid. By all appearances, this isn’t a demonstration project at all, but rather a reelection project financed at taxpayer expense.
In recent congressional testimony, Obama’s secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, was asked about the GAO report. In that report (see the link in the upper-right corner here), the nonpartisan GAO declares that the project — which would cost more than the previous 85 Medicare demonstration projects launched since the middle of the Clinton administration combined — is so riddled with “design shortcomings” that Sebelius “should cancel” it. Amidst a wide variety of concerns, the GAO notes that the project’s “quality bonuses,” which the administration says are designed to reward excellence, “mainly benefit average performing plans — those receiving 3-star and 3.5-star ratings [out of 5].”
When asked during her testimony about this GAO claim, Sebelius replied, “Well, it’s just not accurate.” Immediately thereafter, however, she essentially confirmed its accuracy, by saying, “The plans are rated 1-through-5 stars. The 3-, 4-, and 5-star programs have gotten some additional incentives to offer quality outcomes.” But as the GAO observes, 87 percent of all Medicare Advantage plans get 3 or more stars. In other words, all but the bottom 13 percent of plans get the “quality bonuses.” And “most” of those bonuses, according to the GAO, are going to 3-star or 3.5-star plans — that is, to “average performing plans.”
Why is any of this important? Because either this is a legitimate demonstration project, aimed at improving the execution of current law —which by all accounts it’s not — or else it’s a cynical and probably illegal ploy to spend billions in taxpayer dollars to help Obama win reelection. The Obama administration is either running by far the most expensive — and probably the most poorly designed — demonstration project on record, or else it’s taking $8.35 billion in taxpayer money — a colossal sum that’s roughly 40 times the amount Obama has raised so far for his campaign — and converting it into essentially a supplemental campaign fund for Obama.
On the heels of the GAO report, Sebelius’s testimony suggests that it’s the latter.