Tag Archives: Obamacare propaganda

CBO Report Shows Bogus Nature of Obamacare “Sabotage” Charges

If you need any additional evidence as to the trumped-up (pardon the pun) charges of Obamacare “sabotage” leveled against the current president, look no further than the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report about cost-sharing subsides released yesterday. In the report, CBO concluded that ending subsidy payments—which the law never appropriated to begin with—would keep premiums roughly constant for most individuals, increase spending on insurance subsidies, and increase the number of insured Americans modestly.

Which one of those outcomes do Democrats oppose? Exactly none. Which illustrates why all the self-righteous indignation about President Trump “sabotaging” Obamacare is as much about the individual inhabiting the Oval Office as it is about health care policy.

Check the Cost-Sharing Analysis

The CBO report, as with other prior analyses, assumed that eliminating the cost-sharing reductions—used to reimburse insurers for providing discounted deductibles and co-payments to certain low-income households—would lead insurers to raise premiums, but only for certain plans. Because the law requires insurers to lower cost-sharing regardless of whether the federal government provides separate reimbursement payments for that, insurers would “load” those reductions on to silver insurance plans—but only on insurance exchanges. This change would exempt plans sold off the exchanges, where individuals do not qualify for subsidies, from the higher premium effects.

The higher premiums for silver plans on exchanges would lead to higher spending on insurance subsidies, which Obamacare links to the second-lowest silver premium. And those richer subsidies would attract some more individuals to insurance markets, reducing the number of uninsured by about one million.

Democrats may seize upon CBO’s finding that this scenario would increase the deficit as reason to oppose it. But if Democrats cared about protecting taxpayers, they would have objected to the Obama administration’s actions—actions that the Government Accountability Office concluded last year violated the statute—placing insurance companies ahead of ordinary taxpayers in receiving reinsurance payments. They didn’t object on behalf of taxpayers then, so why object in this case? Is it really about policy, or is it just crass politics?

Liberal Hypocrisy on the Individual Mandate

Likewise, liberals charge that the president could refuse to enforce Obamacare’s individual mandate, encouraging healthy people to drop coverage and causing insurance markets to deteriorate further. In reality though, his room for maneuver is more limited. If the president decided to issue blanket exemptions to the mandate, or not enforce it, insurers likely would sue the administration for failing to execute its constitutional duties—and they could, and should, win. Under our Constitution, the president can, should, and must enforce all the laws, including the mandate, not just the ones he agrees with.

Given their own party’s history with the mandate, liberals’ sudden insistence on its “enforcement” sounds more than a bit rich. Democrats were the ones who, when faced with the fact that non-compliance with the mandate could lead to jail time, expressly wrote the law to prevent the use of such enforcement mechanisms. And the last administration was, if anything, far too liberal with hardship exemptions to the mandate, giving them to individuals who received a notice from a utility threatening to shut off service, or those who had a close family member die in the past three years.

So is the issue with President Trump’s supposed non-enforcement of the mandate, or the fact that he’s the one making decisions on exactly how the mandate will be enforced?

Pester People into Enrolling

The Trump administration could certainly influence insurance markets through outreach efforts. Liberal groups have spent weeks complaining that the Department of Health and Human Services has not solicited them for this fall’s open enrollment season.

But put things into perspective. A Politico story in January noted that the Trump administration reduced television advertising by about $800,000 per day for the last four days of open enrollment—a few million dollars. If Obamacare—entering its fifth open enrollment period this fall—is so fragile that losing a few million dollars of advertising will tank insurance markets, what does that say about the stability, let alone the wisdom, of the law in the first place?

The federal government shouldn’t need to spend millions of dollars every year pestering people into enrolling in coverage, not least because insurance companies can and should do that themselves. President Trump should enforce the law as it’s written—a novel task compared to his predecessor, who seemingly relished in re-writing it unilaterally—but sabotage? Democrats sabotaged the law themselves when they passed it seven years ago, and no amount of opportunistic (and disingenuous) rhetoric can change that fact.

This post was originally published at The Federalist.

Democrats’ Priorities: Obamacare or Zika?

If Nero was the emperor who fiddled while Rome burned, Barack Obama must surely qualify as the president who dithered while his signature initiative rapidly crumbled. Despite a public-health emergency in sections of the southern United States, the president seems more interested in shoveling money to insurers than in stopping the threat from the Zika virus.

Last week the New York Times reported that the Obama administration was attempting yet another Obamacare relaunch, this one including a federally funded “advertising campaign featuring newly insured individuals, as well as direct appeals to young people hit by tax penalties this year for failing to enroll.” With enrollment in the law’s exchanges well below original estimates, insurers leaving in droves, and premiums ready to spike, the move seems to be a desperate attempt to increase sign-ups and keep insurers at the Obamacare table.

But the timing of the announcement could not be more incongruous. Even as the Department of Health and Human Services wastes taxpayer dollars to promote yet again a measure enacted into law six years ago — on which public opinion has remained decidedly stable (and negative) — HHS also claims that it desperately needs additional funding to fight the Zika virus. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote to HHS on Friday to ask why the agency’s leaders  believe that taxpayer dollars “would be better spent propping up the failed Obamacare exchanges than other important public health priorities — such as preventing the spread of Zika.”

The fact remains, however, that HHS’s top priority is propping up the failed Obamacare experiment — a bigger priority than obeying the text of Obamacare itself. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service and other outside experts have concluded that, in implementing Obamacare’s reinsurance program, the administration violated the law by prioritizing payments to insurers over payments to the Treasury. As a result, insurers will receive billions of dollars in extra funding that legally should be returned to taxpayers.

To sum up the situation: The Obama administration is funneling billions of dollars to “greedy” insurers that Democrats hate, while Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats have called for Congress to return from its recess to pass billions of dollars in spending to fight Zika. There is, however, an easy win-win solution: Use the reinsurance funds to pay for the new Zika spending, rather than giving insurance companies another Obamacare bailout.

The Zika conference report that the House passed in June did pay for new spending on the virus by rescinding some unspent Obamacare funds. Two-thirds of the funds rescinded, however ($543 million in total), came from an account used to establish Obamacare exchanges in United States territories. With exchanges having been established for years, this “rescission” amounts to Congress agreeing not to spend money that was never going to be spent anyway — a “pay for” on paper rather than in reality.

By contrast, utilizing reinsurance funds to finance Zika spending would represent a legitimate savings to taxpayers. Such a move would reclaim billions of dollars that otherwise would have been (unlawfully) diverted to insurance companies — some of which would fund the new Zika spending, and some of which would be returned to the taxpayers to whom the funds belonged in the first place.

Using reinsurance dollars to fund a Zika package would be not only good policy but good politics as well. Most Americans would put the health of infants and pregnant women over the health of insurance companies’ bottom lines — and so should Congress. If Democrats wish to defend crony capitalism and corporate-welfare payments to insurers, that is their right. But particularly after the premium spikes hit this fall, few may wish to do so.

As the old saying goes, to govern is to choose. Senator McConnell rightly pointed out last week that this administration has prioritized its failed Obamacare experiment over protecting Americans from the Zika virus. When it comes to finding any new source to pay for new Zika spending, ending Obamacare’s reinsurance bailout should stand at the top of the priority list.

This post was originally published at National Review.

They Said It…

The New York Times has an interesting story today on market research taken by groups attempting to build support for Obamacare, and encourage Americans to sign up for insurance plans in the law’s Exchanges.  Among the more interesting passages were the following two paragraphs:

Lake Research Partners recommended that Enroll America not cite specific dollar amounts at all when they talk to the uninsured about new coverage options. “Talking about ‘free or low cost’ plans may be more motivating,” the survey authors wrote in a report.

Another finding: respondents generally did not like hearing that the law would require most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine starting in 2014.  “The data show warning signs for messaging around the mandate,” the survey authors wrote.

One of the many problems with this messaging is its inaccuracy.  As a major Bloomberg article noted last month, most Americans will be required to pay thousands of dollars per year for health insurance under Obamacare – at least in part because the law’s mandated benefits will raise individual health insurance premiums by $2,100 per family.  And those who can’t afford insurance will pay a tax, not a fine, the President’s claims notwithstanding.

Just as important, the fact that liberal supporters of the law are trying to hype its “free” benefits tells you everything about Obamacare you need to know.

‘Bidenomics’ At Work

The Government Accountability Office released a report yesterday detailing the first two years of spending from Obamacare’s Prevention and Public Health fund. The report itself is 134 pages long — but its essence can be found on pages 101 through 103. There, GAO highlights more than $5 million in spending on seven separate grant programs covering media and public relations. According to GAO, these grants for “advertising and marketing strategies” were intended “to provide enhanced media buying/placement support to the National Prevention Media Initiative to increase exposure of audiences to campaign messages in communities that received Communities Putting Prevention to Work awards. The goal of this activity is to achieve maximum additional exposure of existing/in-development creative campaign materials.”

In other words, the Obama Administration is wasting millions of dollars on PR contracts — to show how Obamacare is wasting billions of dollars on a prevention “slush fund,” all at a time the federal government is running trillion dollar deficits. If this isn’t an example of Joe Biden’s axiom of “spending money to keep from going bankrupt,” I don’t know what is.

Secretary Sebelius Focuses on Saving One Job: Hers…

The Examiner reported on Friday that HHS Secretary Sebelius “will soon be back to doing what she does best — campaigning for President Obama.”  The Secretary was scheduled to appear at several events over the weekend in New Hampshire.  This development shouldn’t surprise most observers, for playing politics has been a major part of Secretary Sebelius’ time in office:

Meanwhile, while the Secretary keeps playing politics, the actual work of governing goes unaddressed:

  • The Secretary admitted in April that the Administration didn’t have a backup plan in place should the Supreme Court strike down Obamacare – even though it would “probably” have been wise for the Department to have one;
  • Perhaps because the Secretary was derelict in her duties to prepare for the consequences of the Court’s decision, the nation’s governors have been waiting months for official guidance from HHS on how to interpret the ruling – to say nothing of the myriad other implementation issues still bogged down within HHS;
  • As we pointed out last week, HHS has allowed up to $11 billion in abusive and potentially fraudulent increases in Medicare payments to go unquestioned for years.

Given this abysmal track record, some might think Secretary Sebelius should spend less time trying to save her job and more time trying to do it.

Coming Attractions: Obamacare Goes Hollywood!

Over the weekend, the New York Times reported on California’s attempts to implement Obamacare.  Among other things, the state is looking to build support for the law by hiring a PR firm to engage in some old-fashioned Hollywood propaganda:

Realizing that much of the battle will be in the public relations realm, the exchange has poured significant resources into a detailed marketing plan –developed not by state health bureaucrats but by the global marketing powerhouse Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, which has an initial $900,000 contract with the exchange….

And Hollywood, an industry whose major players have been supportive of President Obama and his agenda, will be tapped.  Plans are being discussed to pitch a reality television show about “the trials and tribulations of families living without medical coverage,” according to the Ogilvy plan.  The exchange will also seek to have prime-time television shows, like “Modern Family,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and Univision telenovelas, weave the health care law into their plots.  “I’d like to see 10 of the major TV shows, or telenovelas, have people talking about ‘that health insurance thing,’ ” said Peter V. Lee, the exchange’s executive director.  “There are good story lines here.”

Indeed, there are many good story lines — and television show ideas — from Obamacare.  We have several we’d like to suggest:

“The Office:”  Kathleen Sebelius and federal bureaucrats channel Dwight Schrute in the famous “Health Care” episode, deciding which treatments and diseases will, and will not, be covered under Obamacare.  No word yet on whether Count Choculitis will in fact be considered a covered benefit under the law.

“Lost:”  Instead of being trapped on an island, participants in this series will instead be marooned in a vast federal bureaucracy including 159 new boards, bureaucracies, and programs, along with over 12,800 pages of regulations.  In the pilot episode, thousands of small businesses found that Obamacare’s complex small business tax credit left them stranded and confused amidst a complicated array of paperwork that bogged down their firms — and saw many businesses not qualify for a credit at all.

Nick Riviera, M.D.:”  The networks originally proposed a revival of the popular “Marcus Welby” series.  Unfortunately, due to Obamacare’s unsustainable reductions in Medicare reimbursement rates, Dr. Welby — along with many other medical providers –will soon stop practicing medicine.  As a result, the networks resorted to “The Simpsons’” most famous graduate of Hollywood Upstairs Medical College.  Expect to see members of the medical review board as recurring characters in this show…

“Unhappy Days:”  In this show, Tom Bosley is forced to shrink his hardware store business, as Obamacare’s employer mandate will discourage new employment.  Rather than pay tens of thousands of dollars in penalties, he stops hiring new workers and converts his full-time employees to part-time status.  His workers respond with a single despondent reaction: “Whoa!

Coming soon to a small screen near you!

HHS Propaganda Accounts for 60% of Pro-Obamacare Ads

The Los Angeles Times reports today on the status of ad wars regarding the unpopular health care law — an article which includes this striking passage:

The lack of advertising in support of the bill is made even more prevalent by the fact that the Department of Health and Human Services accounts for 60% of pro-healthcare reform spending. With $46 million split among national campaigns ($29 million), cable ($14 million) and smaller buys in urban areas ($3 million), that leaves a mere $30 million spent over 3 1/2 years by every other pro-healthcare reform group nationwide.

Apparently, when this Administration complains about “corporate interests” in politics, their “solution” involves using taxpayer dollars to engage in advertising campaigns promoting a law the American people don’t want.

As a reminder, here are just some of the other wasteful projects HHS has used taxpayer dollars to fund:

  • $20 million to a PR firm for a publicity campaign promoting Obamacare’s benefits
  • $26 million in grants to Ogilvy Public Relations included in the “stimulus” to establish a “Publicity Center”
  • $18 million to send a mailing to seniors purportedly touting the “benefits” of Obamacare to seniors.  The Government Accountability Office found that the mailer — which was NOT reviewed or approved by the non-partisan Medicare actuary for its accuracy — “overstates some of [the law’s] benefits” and “presents a picture of [the law] that is not universally shared.”
  • $3 million in taxpayer funds to run an ad campaign in which Andy Griffith took on the role of “pitching President Barack Obama’s health care law to seniors.”  The non-partisan factcheck.org concluded that the ads used “weasel words” to mislead seniors about the impact of the health care law.
  • Millions more in taxpayer funds to fund 4 million postcards promoting Obamacare’s small business tax credit — which the Government Accountability Office recently concluded was convoluted and ineffective

With spending projects like these, is it any wonder that the federal government is running trillion-dollar deficits?

It’s About Propaganda. And Campaigning.

HHS this afternoon released another mass e-mail, entitled “It’s About Louisa.”  The e-mail – which highlights the supposed value of Obamacare’s small business tax credit – claims it is part of “an initiative to educate Americans about new programs, benefits, and rights under the health care law.”

This e-mail raises several obvious concerns:

  1. This week’s GAO report on the small business tax credit – which includes quotes from business owners who didn’t claim the credit because it was too small, and too bureaucratic, to make a difference for their struggling firm – concluded the program was generally ineffective and cumbersome.  Will the Administration also “educate” people that a non-partisan watchdog agency concluded this “benefit” of the law was not particularly helpful to small businesses?
  2. Coming on the heels of Monday’s news that Porter Novelli received a new $20 million contract to promote Obamacare, it appears these “educational” efforts – at a time when the federal government faces trillion-dollar deficits – are curiously timed to publicize Obamacare while the President is running for re-election.  (Related question: How many of these “educational” campaigns will remain in place AFTER November 6…?)
  3. If HHS wants to “educate Americans” about the new “benefits” of the law, does the Administration also plan to “educate” Americans about the new tax increases under Obamacare?  For instance, will the IRS be writing homeowners to tell them they could owe new taxes on the sale of their homes once Obamacare’s latest round of tax increases takes effect in January?

Also of note, as part of this “educational” campaign, HHS is promoting a new “MyCare” hashtag on Twitter.  Which could result in many tweets such as these:

  • #MyCare is more expensive, because premiums haven’t gone down like #Obama promised.  http://bit.ly/GLMlmL
  • I lost #MyCare, because I couldn’t keep my plan under @hhsgov regulations.  http://1.usa.gov/fSVgrZ
  • Raising taxes $500 billion won’t help #MyCare – it will just kill jobs.  http://bit.ly/hEFA3l
  • As a senior, #MyCare will get worse – because #Obama raided Medicare to fund #Obamacare.  http://bit.ly/vs5egX

Tweets and e-mails aside, one simple fact remains:  On Obamacare, regardless of what the Administration is selling, the American people ain’t buying.

Taxpayers Funding More Obamacare Insanity

In the past day, much has been made about the news that the Administration has engaged a PR firm with a $20 million contract designed to promote ObamaCare’s preventive “benefits.” However, the story that, at a time of trillion-dollar deficits, HHS would use additional dollars to promote their unpopular health care law is not new. After all, this Administration has spent taxpayers’ money on:

  • $26 million in grants to Ogilvy Public Relations included in the “stimulus” to establish a “Publicity Center.”
  • $18 million to send a mailing to seniors purportedly touting the “benefits” of Obamacare to seniors.  The Government Accountability Office found that the mailer — which was NOT reviewed or approved by the non-partisan Medicare actuary for its accuracy — “overstates some of [the law’s] benefits” and “presents a picture of [the law] that is not universally shared.”
  • $3 million in taxpayer funds to run an ad campaign in which Andy Griffith took on the role of “pitching President Barack Obama’s health care law to seniors.”  The non-partisan factcheck.org concluded that the ads used “weasel words” to mislead seniors about the impact of the health care law.
  • Millions more in taxpayer funds to fund 4 million postcards promoting Obamacare’s small business tax credit — which a GAO report released yesterday said was ineffective and infrequently used.
  • Contracts to establish a program promoting the CLASS Act – contracts published even after Secretary Sebelius admitted the CLASS Act was “totally unsustainable,” but before HHS decided not to implement the program.

Given this record, one need only add two additional points. The first is the trend line for ObamaCare’s (un)popularity as the Administration continued to roll out these publicity initiatives. The second is the definition of insanity attributed to Albert Einstein – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Liberals Preparing Obamacare Agitprop

Even as Democrat Members of Congress don’t want to talk about Obamacare, outside liberal groups are discussing how to support the law through an “agitational tone.”  Late last week, the website Buzzfeed obtained a document, drafted by Health Care for America Now, outlining potential strategies for responding to a Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare.  The memo includes possible venues for rapid-response events following the ruling — a Planned Parenthood clinic is one suggested location — and notes that “the final messaging will be either celebratory or agitational in tone depending upon the result, but we will need to have both versions prepared to go.”  (And no, I’m not making this up – you CAN’T make this up.)  The memo goes on to discuss events “like a ‘honk and wave’ or a Burma shave,”* and notes that “waiting longer to orchestrate events diminishes the urgency of our message.”  Remember, these liberal groups “orchestrat[ing] events” with an “agitational tone” in support of Obamacare are the same ones who three years ago decried the protests against Obamacare as being fake, orchestrated, and mean-spirited.

Nevertheless, in a spirit of bipartisan comity, we’ve put together some additional suggestions on groups and speakers that the professional left could ask to speak in support of Obamacare:

  • Individuals who can’t wait to be compelled to buy a product for the first time in our nation’s history; these folks will be easy to find, as Obamacare’s individual mandate is overwhelmingly popular with the American public (just like the entire law).  Also a great visual: The government bureaucrats who will be determining what insurance all Americans will be forced to buy.
  • All the Americans who have been able to keep their health insurance, just like candidate Obama promised.  Because it’s not like the Administration has needed to give out waivers to union members or senior citizens while attempting to hide a broken promise, stifle dislocation, and quash political dissent as the President runs for re-election.
  • Members of the public whose faith in government was restored by the transparent process leading up to Obamacare, with all the negotiations on C-SPAN and none of the secret “rock-solid deals” and backroom shenanigans that candidate Obama said he wanted to rid from American politics once and for all.
  • Last but certainly not least, the best endorsers of Obamacare will be the tens of millions of Americans who saw their premiums being cut by $2,500 per family, just like candidate Obama promised.

Oh, wait…