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We’ve addressed this before, but claims about “Obamacare” being deficit neutral are STILL heard to this day. In an effort to once again diffuse this misconception, let’s examine how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been scored over time – for anyone citing old numbers, this should put to bed any “deficit-neutral” talk.
For those inclined to believe the President, its understandable why they might echo his original claims on the subject. In September 2009 the President claimed "I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future."
While budget gimmickry allowed for Congressional Budget Office scores that backed these statements, anyone paying attention over the last three years should know better – there’s that word again!
Just before the law was passed in March 2010, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the law would save $130 billion over its first decade.
We started the saga of these Affordable Care Act claims with that CBO estimate, yet when picked apart, it was revealed to be rather concocted for a number of reasons.
First, the package given to the CBO ignored what’s dubbed the “doc fix”. This $371 billion Medicare reimbursement cut for doctors is routinely delayed or “fixed”, meaning Medicare habitually ignores it and spends the ever increasing sum anyway. Not including this hefty price in government healthcare artificially lowers its total cost by compartmentalizing the spending in multiple bills.
The law also double counted about $70 billion in savings from the CLASS Act, along term care program. Finally, the CBO is forced to assume that Congressional projections for health spending will be abided by and not dumped out of political convenience, another dubious notion.
As the law came ever closer to implementation, the delay in the employer mandate happened. This will cost as much as $10 billion as expected fines are not collected over the year-long postponement, according to CBO. The mandate delay is also expected to push additional Americans into the federally subsidized exchanges, which would push costs up by as much as $5 billion more.
Now, CBO has revised its ten-year cost estimate for Obamacare to upwards of $180 billion.
The CBO report is paired with a Government Accountability Office report from January which maintains most of the supposed savings from the ACA are contingent on cost saving mechanisms and assumptions that place the political burden on Congress to maintain. The GAO “expressed concerns” about the will of Congress in this regard. That same report calculated the ACA would add an additional $6.2 trillion to America’s long term deficit.
This information should preclude any claims that Obamacare is deficit-neutral or even reduces the deficit. Unfortunately, we have to keep saying “should”, which means the parties guilty of continuing these claims are likely to continue, and we can keep calling them on it.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Flashback: Rhetoric Vs. Reality Revealed Obamacare Train Wreck
The rhetoric on healthcare reform has stayed remarkably similar ever since July 2009. Even at the beginning of the Obamacare saga, we exposed the wide gulf between how reform was described and what the actual details of reform would mean for taxpayers.
Four years later, rhetoric has morphed into a cruel reality for millions of Americans who now must deal with the real life consequences of the penalties, taxes, and regulations associated with this law.
The healthcare oratory of 2009 featured words like “choice” and “options” which now ring hollow as millions of Americans are dropped from insurance plans they already liked. The much vaunted 2009 “marketplace” has been reduced to a simple, yet profound website error message. The “competition” that was promised, failing along with the site.
A lot has changed in America since 2009, and Obamacare’s rhetorical realities are now much clearer. A plan that promised so much has delivered precious little. All of it proving that the critics may have been right all along.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Independent Institute's John R. Graham lends his healthcare expertise to the podcast as we examine "Obamacare" and more. Plus, a ballot initiative rundown and the Outrage of the Week!0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Top Five Head-Scratching Quotes by Secretary Sebelius
Today, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the disastrous implementation of Obamacare. Here are five direct quotes from the Secretary that have left us puzzled to say the least.
#5: “Contractors had never suggested a delay.”
Secretary Sebelius seems to suggest that the Administration was blindsided by the numerous problems of HealthCare.gov. A story in the Washington Post suggests otherwise. According to the article, a group of about 10 insurers were convened to test out the website before its release and “about a month before the exchange opened, this testing group urged agency officials not to launch it nationwide because it was still riddled with problems, according to an insurance IT executive who was close to the rollout.” It appears that the Administration was at least partially aware of the serious technical issues associated with the website.
#4: “The assessment we have made is that it will take the end of November for an optimally performing website.”
No one can predict the future, but given its track record and the analysis of various IT experts, the Secretary’s claim is hard to believe. An article in the New York Times noted, “Some specialists working on the project said the online system required such extensive repairs that it might not operate smoothly until after the Dec. 15 deadline for people to sign up for coverage starting in January, although that view is not universally shared.” The article also states that, “One specialist said that as many as five million lines of software code may need to be rewritten before the Web site runs properly.”
A blog post by Clay Johnson, President Obama’s former innovation advisor, suggests the issues with the website run much deeper: “Healthcare.gov got this way not because of incompetence or sloppiness of an individual vendor, but because of a deeply engrained and malignant cancer that’s eating away at the federal government’s ability to provide effective online services. It’s a cancer that’s shut out the best and brightest minds from working on these problems, diminished competition for federal work, and landed us here — where you have half-billion dollar websites that don’t work.”
#3: “The website has never crashed. It is functional but at a very slow speed and very low reliability.”
Perhaps she is using a nonconventional or extremely technical definition of “crashed,” but there have been numerous reports of the website crashing or being completely unavailable to users since its October 1st launch. In fact, on its very first day, the website crashed according to an article by Josh Archambault at Forbes.com. Embarrassingly enough for Secretary Sebelius, HealthCare.gov appeared to be down during the hearing, as illustrated by a CNN split-screen.
#2: “I am not eligible for the exchange, because I have coverage in an employer plan.”
This was perhaps the most bizarre statement by Secretary Sebelius during the hearing. According to Healthcare.gov, this appears to be completely false. A page on the website titled, “What if I have job-based insurance?” specifically states, “If you'd like to explore Marketplace coverage options you can.” As long as an individual lives in the United States, is a citizen or legal resident, and is not presently incarcerated, he or she is permitted to utilize the Obamacare exchanges. As far as I know, Secretary Sebelius meets all of those requirements.
#1: “Yes, he is.”
Some context is needed here. This was a response to Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, who during the hearing asked, “the president kept saying if you like your health care plan, you can keep it, so is he keeping his promise?” So Secretary Sebelius is standing by the President’s frequently cited claim that people could keep their health insurance. She does so despite numerous stories and reports of millions of Americans losing their insurance as a result of the law – not to mention the recent analysis of Washington Post’s “Fact Checker,” who judged Obama’s claim false and issued it a whopping “Four Pinocchios.”0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
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In an extended podcast, Seton Motley of Less Government talks about the latest developments in the Obamacare debut catastrophe. NTUF's Demian Brady kicks off the podcast with an update on Congress' Florida excursion, and the Outrage of the Week!0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Obamacare website’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week
Quite possibly the most prominent news story obscured by the government ‘shutdown’ was the awful technological week for the new healthcare exchanges. The consequences of the early crashes, bugs, and errors that marred the first week of enrollment have grown into a full fledged tsunami of malfunction in week two.
First came the revelation that out of the 9.5 million visitors to healthcare.gov, just 36,000 were able to successfully navigate the sites difficulties and fully enroll. A success rate of less than one percent. This prompted Health and Human Services (HHS) to take down parts of the site for repairs.
The cause of these errors raised another series of unflattering answers. The website forces an individual to sign up and provide all sorts of information before allowing them to view their coverage options and prices. The website creators knew this would slow down operations on the site but insisted on it being done. “An HHS spokeswoman said the agency wanted to ensure that users were aware of their eligibility for subsidies that could help pay for coverage, before they started seeing the prices of policies.” Either HHS was attempting to hide the cost of coverage plans, or perhaps trying to push subsidies as quickly as possible.
Even more worrisome is a USA Today article citing tech experts that advocate for the site’s “total overhaul” because, “The federal health care exchange was built using 10-year-old technology that may require constant fixes and updates for the next six months and the eventual overhaul of the entire system. ”On top of the old technology, the site was reportedly not tested until a week prior to launch.
That begs the question of why industry experts were not brought in to aid HHS. The answer is the administration’s fear that “those companies could be subpoenaed by Hill Republicans”. A stark politically motivated move that would hurt the end users of the exchanges, who one might imagine are the point of Obamacare. Plus, the only IT firm that worked on the site has deep connections to the failed Canadian healthcare site in Ontario. All of this while the financial tab for the site has tripled. No wonder the site’s designer has wiped all reference of it from the company website.
This massive comedy of errors that has unfolded over the last two weeks was months in the making, and raises real concerns as to the viability of the government’s effort to direct the healthcare insurance market.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Government ‘Shutdown’: Day 10
Website waste: The now infamous and floundering government website for Obamacare cost taxpayers over $634 million to create. Despite knowing the October 1st deadline was coming for months, the site has been marred by poorly written code, glitches, and crashes. Read more at Digital Trends.
Overbuilt Courts: A new Government Accountability Office report reveals that most federal courthouses built from 2000-2010 were built larger than Congress authorized. The GAO found 3.56 million square feet of unneeded space costing taxpayers $835 million. More details at USA Today.
Extravagant charges: The director of a Washington state educational group for low income children has been using taxpayer money to buy “expensive meals, unnecessary flights and a hotel stay in a presidential suite.” To this day, Loueta Johnson remains on the job. KIMA TV has more details.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Today’s Taxpayer News!
Not so Affordable Care Act: A new report by CMS says that Obamacare will increase overall healthcare spending by a whopping $621 billion, a cost taxpayers will have to front. Read more at Heritage.
Ineligible receivers: An audit of Tennessee’s state health plan shows taxpayers lost $1.5 million due to officials failing to recognize a number of ineligible citizens who are participating in the program. Watchdog.org has more.
To the dogs: The city of Nashville has spent $30,000 on waste bags for dog refuse. Although, the metro area is attempting to find more cost effective solutions. Find out the details at Fox17.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Today, the Republican Study Committee released a health care bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” and replace it with a number of market-based reforms and improvements to the tax code. You can read more about the legislation here and read NTU’s supportive letter to the bill’s author, Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), here.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
All too many federal agencies can be cited for having budgetary skeletons in their closet, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is no exception. From poorly managing a drone fleet purchase, to making questionable demands for more employees, CBP has raised fears for the security of taxpayers’ wallets in the past. Yet, Congress has an opportunity to ease future fears, over a controversial new CBP project, before it can cause a fiscal fright.
Two years ago, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concluded a letter of intent with the United Arab Emirates to build a “pre-clearance” facility at Abu Dhabi airport which would allow travelers to the U.S. to clear customs before arriving on American soil. So far, so good: pre-clearance can not only save time and reduce congestion at U.S. points of entry, it can also help ease the way for tourists who contribute to economic activity while visiting here.
Now for the not-so-good:
All these drawbacks lead to one long question: Given CBP’s service challenges at existing airports, is it really a good idea to plow ahead with a facility whose use will be comparatively scarce in the near term, and give another leg-up to an airline backed by its own government as well as ours, at the expense of an already overtaxed flying public?
And “overtaxed” is an understatement. As NTU has often noted, the typical overall government tax and fee burden of 20 percent on a $300 domestic airfare is higher than the average effective rate a middle-class American is likely to pay on his or her 1040 income tax return. International air travelers can have it even worse, with impositions such as separate departure and arrival taxes along with a passenger agricultural inspection fee (which the Obama Administration ill-advisedly considered raising in 2009) and a customs fee.
Proponents of the CBP station at Abu Dhabi argue that the investment of U.S. tax dollars will be minimal since UAE will pick up 85 percent of the project’s expense under the current agreement. But that’s little comfort to tax-weary travelers in America (see above), who remain worried that whatever share they will be forced to commit could escalate if construction or operating costs are not contained. Meanwhile, there’s that pesky matter of how best to apply CBP’s fee collections as well as appropriations from general funds – should they be used to expedite higher-priority passenger and cargo entry-exit services?
Many Members of Congress seem to think so. In June, the House of Representatives passed an amended FY 2014 DHS Appropriations Bill specifically blocking the Abu Dhabi pre-clearance scheme. In May, a bi-partisan group of 11 Senators echoed the sentiment of their House colleagues in a separate letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, questioning whether the agency’s “decision was made as a result of a risk based analysis.”
Alas, earlier this month DHS announced it was moving forward with a data-sharing agreement that could pave the way for the facility’s activation, even as it faces a concerted petition effort from interested industry groups with considerable clout.
Regardless of the politics involved, the taxpayer aspects of the issue deserve further exploration – that goes not only for the Abu Dhabi pact but also the ever-troubling direction of the Ex-Im Bank. Allowing the free market and fiscal responsibility to sort out needs from niceties would provide some badly-needed bone-rattling for those accustomed to budgetary business as usual in Washington.1 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts