Obamacare's Nearly Bottomless Slush Fund

Thursday, 20 Jun 2013 05:40 PM

By Ernest Istook

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Image: Obamacare's Nearly Bottomless Slush Fund
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Should our tax dollars be spent to hire the National Basketball Association to promote Obamacare? Congress has created an opening for a fast break to make that happen.

Negotiations are underway between the NBA and the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for an Obamacare sponsorship — and CMS can tap a nearly bottomless pit of taxpayer money.

There is precedent. Even though a deal with the NBA might cost far more, taxpayers already spend $53 million a year on NASCAR, pro wrestling and other sports sponsorships. But that money almost all goes to promote the National Guard — not a controversial program such as Obamacare.

With a recent 290-134 House vote approving the NASCAR deal and others, Congress has left an opening that the White House can drive through to reach the NBA.

The Naitonal Guard's biggie is $26.5 million to sponsor Dale Earnhardt's number 88 car in NASCAR. There is also a $14.5 million deal with the Indy Racing League, a $5 million deal with World Wrestling Entertainment and a $4 million arrangement with the American Motorcycle Association.

The Washington Post reports that the Army continues a drag racing sponsorship and underwrites a football game for high school all-stars.

The Army, Navy, and Marines have ended NASCAR sponsorships and the Air Force supports only two races, while the National Guard has continued full speed ahead. The U.S. House voted last week to allow the military to continue these arrangements.

That fresh 290-134 vote last week defeated an amendment that would have disallowed the current sponsorship spending by the military. It will surely be mentioned by the White House if their negotiations succeed with the NBA.

Republicans last week supported the sports sponsorships by 207-23; Democrats opposed it by 111-83. In 2012, a similar effort to cut off this funding was defeated, 216-202.

Obamacare doesn't face the "nuisance" of needing annual Congressional support for its advertising, marketing and promotion.

Obamacare can tap into what Forbes magazine labels a never-expiring $12.5-billion slush fund, known as the "Prevention and Public Health Fund." The fund was created by the original passage of Obamacare and is controlled by the Department of Health and Human Services, parent of the CMS.

Forbes also reports that hundreds of millions of tax dollars may be unleashed this summer to promote Obamacare, often routed through grants to state governments and other entities.

Combined with private funds (such as HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius has been soliciting), this year's Obamacare marketing could top a billion dollars.

The only effective limit on how the public funds are spent is the creativity of supporters.

TV, radio, billboards, social media, video games, and sports sponsorships are just some of the possibilities.

Obviously that could include the NBA.

Who knows the cost to hire the NBA to promote the struggling Obamacare program?

It's not cheap. Salaries top out at $60 million a year. The NBA reportedly could collect an extra $100 million per season just by placing 2 1/2-inch square sponsor patches on the players' jerseys.

A recent four-year sponsorship deal between the NBA and Sprint cost $45 million a year in cash, plus other costs that bring it to a total of $250 million, according to Sports Business Journal.

Thanks to that convenient $12.5 billion slush fund, Obamacare now has more to spend than Sprint.

Why is the Obama Administration looking at the basketball league?

It's not about role models. The NBA is followed by legions of young adults who often lack health insurance but now will be required by Obamacare to get it. Few realize how much it will cost them thanks to the premium increases caused by the legislation, so these young adults have become targets who need lots of persuasion.

Why would the NBA involve itself with this political hot potato? Commissioner David Stern is a major Democrat supporter.

He's given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrat campaigns in the last three election cycles. This includes $142,900 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, plus additional generous donations by Stern to prominent Democrats who include Sens. Barbara Boxer, Al Franken, Claire McCaskill, Patty Murray, and Rep. Nita Lowey.

With or without the NBA, get ready for a blitz of taxpayer-funded advertising and promotions.

Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars may be spent, thanks to the huge slush fund that was created by Obamacare.

Former Congressman Ernest Istook's website is www.istook.com. Read more reports from Ernest Istook — Click Here Now.

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