Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Administration Puts Politics over Taxpayers

This morning the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on a Medicare Advantage demonstration program costing more than $8 billion, and implemented solely by executive fiat, that looks suspiciously like an attempt to avoid the effects of Obamacare’s cuts on the program prior to the 2012 election.  The Associated Press previously reported on the Medicare Advantage demonstration last year, noting that the program “could head off service cuts that would have been a [political] headache for Obama and Democrats in next year’s elections.”  Even a former Democrat staffer who worked in the Clinton Administration admitted that the effort amounted to a political stunt: “It’s fair to say that [Medicare] could not tolerate dislocation, given the political climate.”

Under questioning at today’s hearing, Medicare head Jonathan Blum conceded that not a single outside non-partisan entity has endorsed the Administration’s approach.  By contrast, both the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and the Government Accountability Office have raised serious questions about the demonstration program.  In fact, a recent follow-up report by GAO suggested the program may exceed the Administration’s statutory authority.  It’s pretty ironic that the Administration that so self-righteously proclaimed its adherence to “sound science” – “It is about letting scientists…do their jobs…and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient; especially when it’s inconvenient” – now ignores all non-partisan experts when it comes to making political decisions in an election year.

Blum also admitted that the Administration wouldn’t actually know whether the multi-billion dollar program will save any money until after it’s completed.  Perhaps not surprisingly, he didn’t commit the Administration to reimbursing taxpayers for the more than $8 billion in additional government spending if the program doesn’t end up saving money.  Three years ago, Vice President Biden famously said we needed to spend more money to keep from going bankrupt.  Based on this morning’s hearing, it would appear that the Administration has now resorted to spending more taxpayer money to keep from losing an election.