A published report saying the Obama administration knew that its healthcare proposal would increase costs instead of reducing them is “troubling,” according to a senior House Republican leader.
Administration officials from the president downward used claims that the legislation would reduce healthcare costs to get the votes of wavering members of Congress.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius knew about a report from Medicare’s Office of the Actuary prior to the House’s March 22 vote, indicating the bill would increase healthcare costs, according to an April 26 report appearing in The American Spectator’s Washington Prowler blog.
The bill passed by a 219-212 margin with several self-proclaimed fiscally conservative Democrats voting in favor, believing it would reduce costs.
But an HHS source said Sebelius’ staff refused to examine the document before the vote was taken to keep from negatively influencing the results. The administration waited until last week to make the report public.
“The reason we were given was that they did not want to influence the vote,” the HHS source said. “Which is actually the point of having a review, you would think. We know a copy was sent to the White House via their legislative affairs staff, and there were a number of meetings here almost right after the analysis was submitted.
“Everyone went into lockdown, and people here were too scared to go public with the report.”
House Republican Study Committee chairman Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., who has been a key GOP point man on healthcare reform, tells Newsmax this revelation further undermines the administration’s popular credibility.
“There seems to be an increasing credibility gap between what the administration says and what the facts are — whether it’s in the area of unemployment or energy, or stimulus, or the higher cost of healthcare,” Price said.
“I think this is directly acceding into a remarkable lack of trust the American people have in this administration, and the president repeatedly reinforces that lack of trust by continuing to repeat things that just aren’t accurate.”
Price said he hopes this will raise a popular uproar because those who voted for the healthcare reform law placed the interests of their party’s leadership over those of their constituents.
“They said the law would bring down costs, but it is quite the opposite,” Price said. “So it’s a stunning incoordination with the truth, and that’s very, very concerning and I think terribly troubling for the entire nation.”
Other conservative leaders had equally strong words for the revelation.
Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, said if the administration intentionally suppressed information contradicting its public claims about its healthcare reform proposal, it would reflect a Chicago-style way of doing things.
“If true, this is one more confirmation of the Obama administration’s lack of integrity in promoting the healthcare bill,” Hanna said. “It makes a mockery of the president’s claims of transparency.”
The report makes it obvious Sebelius’ office used its influence to keep an independently verified report showing the president’s healthcare reform package would increase costs to ensure the legislation passed and fence-sitting Democrats were kept in line, according to Ryan Ellis, Americans for Tax Reform’s tax policy director.
“It would have been nice to know there was independent verification that this bill was going to cost a lot more than people were saying,” Ellis said. “It would have been nice to know that Obama’s own CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) was giving independent verification that the accounting gimmicks were there and the double-counting was there, and that it wouldn’t do anything to bend the cost curve.”
Ellis, who has read the report in detail, tells Newsmax it predicts healthcare will substantially grow as part of the overall economy over the next decade, compared with current numbers.
“If you are going to bend the cost curve, at the very least it shouldn’t be growing as a percentage of the economy,” Ellis said. “It’s about 16 percent of the economy today, and it will grow to about 21 percent of the economy in 10 years. That’s not bending the cost curve; if anything you are accelerating it.”
The report also noted the administration’s accounting excluded the so-called “doc fix,” which would increase Medicare reimbursement rates. Some estimate this could cost several trillion dollars over the next decade should Congress pass it in the future.
“They are claiming all this new revenue going into the Medicare Part A trust fund . . . the Medicare program doesn’t make a lot of sense when you are then raiding that trust fund in order to pay for some of the subsidies that are part of this healthcare bill,” Ellis said. “You can’t do both. You can’t use a dollar to extend Medicare and then use that same dollar to spend it today in order to pay for Obamacare.
“You can’t use the same dollar twice. What the CMS report is saying is there is a lot of accounting gimmicks in there that are understating the cost to the taxpayers.”
Ellis said those Blue Dog Democrats who voted for the bill should especially be upset because the administration lied to get their votes.
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