Saturday, February 28, 2015

Three Billion Dollars Worth of Obamacare Schadenfreude

A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money:

Lawless: Treasury throws unauthorized $3 billion to insurers under Obamacare, won’t say why
It’s right there in the Constitution: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”

Which is why this latest episode of lawlessness from the administration is so particularly galling. “The U.S. Treasury Department has rebuffed a request by House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., to explain $3 billion in payments that were made to health insurers even though Congress never authorized the spending through annual appropriations,” The Washington Examiner’s Philp Klein reported on Thursday.

That’s right. The payments insurers receive, dubbed “cost –sharing subsidies,” are designed to offset the costs incurred when they pick up the out-of-pocket expenses for low-income individuals covered by Affordable Care Act plans. If insurers had to cover these costs themselves, Obamacare would be infeasible. So, the federal government picks up the tab for the newly insured as they go about receiving “free” health care.

There’s just one tiny, unconstitutional problem: Congress never authorized the distribution of those funds. “[B]ut the Department of Health and Human Services, with the cooperation of the U.S. Treasury, made them anyway,” Klein reported.
In a Feb. 3 letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Ryan, along with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., asked for “a full explanation for, and all documents relating to” the administration’s decision to make the cost-sharing payments without congressional authorization.
In response, on Wednesday, the Treasury Department sent a letter to Ryan largely describing the program, without offering a detailed explanation of the decision to make the payments. The letter revealed that $2.997 billion in such payments had been made in 2014, but didn’t elaborate on where the money came from. Over the next decade, cost-sharing payments to insurers are projected by the Congressional Budget Office to cost taxpayers nearly $150 billion.
Click through to Klein’s report and read the whole thing. This pattern of behavior from administration officials is staggering in its lawlessness and sets a dangerous precedent.

“A second grader knows that only Congress can appropriate funds. And even though CMS apparently agrees with that, the managers at HHS don’t,” The American Thinker’s Rick Moran opined. “Unfortunately, unless both the House and Senate order the insurance companies to return the funds – and President Obama signs the bill – HHS is going to get away with this.”
A second grader may or may not know it, but the Obama administration clearly has no intention of playing by the rules for the next two years.

Ted Cruz: Obamacare defunding fight wasn't winnable
In a wide-ranging speech to the Club for Growth winter meeting Friday night, Sen. Ted Cruz looked back on his 2013 crusade to defund Obamacare — an effort that consumed Washington, led to bitter Republican party infighting, and resulted in a partial government shutdown — and concluded it was a fight he probably never could have won.

"Is it likely we would have altogether defunded Obamacare then?" the Texas Republican said. "Probably not. That would have taken an almost perfect storm. I was never Pollyannaish about the political factors it would take for that to happen."

As the 2013 battle began, Cruz said victory was within reach if Republicans simply stuck together. But Friday night, he explained that what was actually possible was "a middle ground compromise" in which President Obama would have been forced to give way on some aspects of Obamacare. Such a compromise "would have provided some significant relief to the millions of people losing their jobs, losing their health insurance, losing their doctors because of Obamacare," Cruz said.
It is kind of easy to conclude you couldn't do something after you've failed to achieve it.  That's OK if you learn from the battle.

And the Washington Post continues to work the refs: Obamacare threatens to end John Roberts’s dream of a nonpartisan Supreme Court
Roberts, 60, jokes about the “odd historical quirk” that gives the chief justice only one vote. But he has learned to use the tools that come with the job: He shapes the discussion at conference; he writes the court’s opinion, or assigns it strategically, when he is in the majority; he’s happy to settle for nonthreatening, incremental changes that may bloom later into something more. And last term, what Roberts has described as the chief justice’s “particular obligation to try to achieve consensus” paid off. The share of unanimous decisions soared to 66 percent, a level not seen since the 1940s. The share of 5-to-4 decisions, high during Roberts’s tenure compared with those of other chief justices, fell to 14 percent, the lowest since he joined the court.

And then here comes Obamacare II. In King v. Burwell , to be argued Wednesday, plaintiffs say the text of the law must be interpreted in a way that would neuter it, canceling health insurance subsidies for about 7.5 million Americans in at least 34 states. Can Roberts’s portrayal of the Supreme Court as above politics survive another round with the most partisan issue of the decade?
Not if they decide against Obamacare, according to the Post. Consensus is great, when it results in gains for their side.

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