When asked under oath about the status of American taxpayer dollars invested in the exchanges, Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in December 2015 that [the state-based exchanges] returned over $200 million in grant dollars to the federal government,” the report states. “But information and documents CMS recently provided to the committee fail to corroborate Mr. Slavitt’s testimony and raise significant questions regarding the truthfulness of his statements.
Statement by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Daily Caller reports:
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce requested documents from the The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), headed by Andy Slavitt, to corroborate Slavitt’s claim but found that the agency only had recovered $21.5 million in federal grant dollars from the exchanges. Slavitt overstated the amount returned to the Treasury by nearly $180 million.
“Mr. Slavitt’s testimony misled the committee in two ways: he misstated the amount of grant money returned to the Treasury, and he wrongfully implied that the funds were returned because of improper spending and CMS’ oversight efforts,” the committee wrote.
The failing, yet “signature” legislation of this Administration, which passed without a single Republican vote, can be seen in the number of exchanges that have collapsed. Almost half of the state exchanges are in deep financial trouble, even after more than $5.5 billion was distributed to 48 states and the District of Columbia to both plan and establish exchanges. Twenty-three co-ops were created under the president’s health care overhaul, and so far more than half have collapsed and are no longer selling plans in the marketplace.
Americans for Tax Reform summarizes the latest Government Accountability Office (GAO) report:
In Oregon, officials were forced to install “dozens of extra fax lines” months after the launch date because the exchange website was unworkable. Key functionality in Vermont remains incomplete even today, and the system has been described as “hellish” by enrollees. In Maryland, there was zero accountabilityfor the $190 million exchange and just four people could enroll on the first day. In Massachusetts, officials and contractors joked that their system was based on the idea that “users do testing.” The poor performance of the exchange resulted in an estimated $1 billion in costs for the state.
Cover “Up” Oregon
The most controversial collapse happened in Oregon. Like Obamacare, Cover Oregon was a centerpiece of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s administration. Cover Oregon was to provide insurance for an estimated 560,000 Oregonians. However, According to reports based on recovered emails from a whistleblower in the Oregon exchange, political shenanigans related to the reelection of former Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) played a role in its demise.
After spending more than $300 million setting up the state’s health care exchange not a single citizen of the state signed up for Obamacare via the website before it was closed down by a woman who had nicknamed herself the “Princess of Darkness.”
Kitzhaber hoped that his state’s health exchange would be a testament to activist government. Instead, Cover Oregon had become a laughingstock. The entire fiasco of mismanagement and missed deadlines posed a threat to Kitzhaber’s legacy as a progressive champion for healthcare reform. So, he surreptitiously handed over control of the Cover Oregon mess to a key campaign consultant—Patricia McCaig—who called herself the Princess of Darkness. Ms. McCaig knew nothing about healthcare policy, but that did not matter. Her job wasn’t to fix Cover Oregon; her job was to get Kitzhaber reelected…Adding insult to injury, the Princess of Darkness then pushed to sue Oracle in a shady effort to deflect blame. The state is now embroiled in lawsuits and former Oregon officials are under myriad congressional and federal investigations.
Please note that Oregon’s ethics and election laws require a separation between political activity and official decisions, yet that didn’t stop the Princess of Darkness in her success in getting Governor Kitzhaber reelected, but thanks to the whistleblower, the uncovered corruption forced the governor to resign and prompted a widespread FBI investigation.
Ethics for Thee and Not for Me
Andy Slavitt was appointed to run the CMS, a bureaucracy of 165,000 people, by President Barack Obama when the prior administrator, Marilyn Tavenner, resigned as a result of the nationwide failures of Obamacare. Mr. Slavitt’s appointment was controversial in that he received an unusual “ethics waiver” that exempted him from the president’s ethics rules when he joined CMS in July 2014 as a deputy administrator. The rare waiver issued to Slavitt eliminated that restriction and permitted him to work immediately at CMS on financial and regulatory matters that could affect the bottom line of his former employer and the nation’s largest health insurance company, United Health Group.
Despite the demonstrable failures like Maryland ($125 million price tag) and Oregon (over $300 million price tag), Andy Slavitt lied under oath during a congressional inquiry, and is prompting many in the media and congress to ask:
Could the failed Obamacare exchanges have been merely an excuse to direct payola to safely Democratic states?
Based on a new report from the Government Accountability Office, and the actions of acting head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Studies (CMS) Andrew Slavitt, the answer may well be yes.
From the Princess of Darkness in Oregon to the Pay to Play Prince in DC, these bureaucrats demonstrate a cavalier disregard for the truth. The ends justify the means and absent of accountability, their means are built on deception, political opportunity, and tax-payer theft. These big government bureaus and their administrators are protected from lawsuits and ethics, unlike Oracle. The Cover Oregon scandal illustrates the arrogance and audacity of not only a failed big government, but the arrogance and audacity of Andrew Slavitt and the Obama administration.