Tag Archives: Senate HELP Committee

Five Factors That Could Interfere with Graham-Cassidy’s State Health Care Waivers

Some conservative writers—including others who write for this publication—have opined that the legislation written by Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) offers states the ability to innovate and reform their health care systems. Most conservatives, including this one, consider state flexibility an admirable goal.

Certainly reforming Medicaid—through a block grant or per capita cap, coupled with additional flexibility to allow states to manage their programs more freely—would go a long way towards improving care, and reducing health care costs.

But does Graham-Cassidy as written deliver on its promise regarding Obamacare insurance regulations? On the two critical questions surrounding the legislation—will it lower insurance premiums, and will it generate a system that works for states?—a textual analysis of the bill yields significant doubts. At least five issues could hinder the results its sponsors have promised, and which all conservatives hope for.

1. Subsidizing Moral Hazard

The language on the top of page 15 explicitly links waivers to funding from the new system of block grants the bill creates. Any waiver will only apply to 1) coverage provided by an insurer receiving block grant funding and 2) coverage “provided to an individual who is receiving a direct benefit (including reduced premium costs or reduced out-of-pocket costs)” under the block grant.

This requirement that each and every person subjected to a non-Obamacare-compliant plan must receive a “direct benefit” subsidized by federal taxpayers has several potential perverse consequences. By definition, it encourages moral hazard. Because individuals will know that if they are subjected to health underwriting, or an otherwise noncompliant plan, they must receive federal subsidies, it will encourage them not to buy health insurance until they need it.

It means that either states will have to extend taxpayer-subsidized benefits to highly affluent individuals (allowing them to buy noncompliant plans), or have to permit only low- and middle-income families to buy noncompliant plans (to restrict the subsidies to low-income families). Both scenarios seem politically problematic to the point of being untenable.

If states try to provide a de minimis direct benefit—say, a $1 monthly premium subsidy—to some enrollees to minimize the two problems described above, they would face high overhead costs, and a complex system to administer.

When considering the two considerations above—will the bill lower premiums, and will it work?—this provision alone seems destined to preclude either from occurring. The moral hazard could increase premiums, not lower them, driving more healthy people out of the marketplace by telling them they will receive subsidies if and when they become sick and need coverage. The requirement that every person subjected to a waiver must receive subsidized benefits appears potentially destabilizing to insurance markets, while also creating political problems and administrative complexity.

2. Encouraging Lawsuits

The provision on page 12 requiring states applying for waivers to describe “how the state intends to maintain access to adequate and affordable health insurance coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions” presents two concerns. First, a future Democratic administration could use rulemaking to define “adequate and affordable health insurance coverage” so narrowly—prohibiting co-payments or cost-sharing of more than $5, for instance—that no state could maintain access to “adequate and affordable” coverage, thereby eliminating their ability to apply for and receive a waiver.

Second, courts have ruled that Medicaid waiver applications are subject to judicial review, a standard that would presumably apply to the Graham-Cassidy waivers as well. While a Congressional Research Service report notes that courts have traditionally given deference to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on waiver applications, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1994 did in fact strike down a California waiver application that CMS had previously approved.

If a state receives a waiver, it seems highly likely that individuals affected, with the strong encouragement of liberal activists, will seek relief in court, and point to the page 12 language to argue that the court should strike down the waiver for not providing “adequate and affordable coverage” to people with pre-existing conditions. At minimum, the ensuing legal uncertainty could place states’ waiver programs in limbo for months or even years. And only one judge, or one circuit court, that views the pre-existing condition language as applying to more than states’ waiver application could undermine the program.

Congress could theoretically include language in Graham-Cassidy precluding judicial review of administrative decisions regarding waivers, as Democrats did 13 separate times in Obamacare. But on this particular bill, such a provision likely would not pass muster with the “Byrd rule” that applies to budget reconciliation measures.

Specifically, language prohibiting judicial review would have no (or a minimal) budgetary impact, and would represent matter outside the committees with jurisdiction over the reconciliation bill (Senate Judiciary versus Senate Finance and HELP Committees), both points of order that would see the provision stricken absent 60 Senate votes (which the bill does not have) to retain it.

Given the ongoing political controversy surrounding pre-existing conditions, some moderates may view the inclusion of this phrase as critical to their support for the bill. But its inclusion could ultimately undermine the entire waiver process and one of conservatives’ prime goals from the “repeal-and-replace” process, namely relief from Washington-imposed regulatory burdens.

3. Encourages Activist Judges and Bureaucrats

Language on page 13 of the bill includes language limiting any regulatory waiver: “A health insurance issuer may not vary premium rates based on an individual’s sex or membership in a protected class under the Constitution of the United States.” Here again, a future Democratic administration, or activist judges, could easily take an expansive view of “protected class” to include age, family status, gender identity, etc., in ways that undermine the waivers’ supposed regulatory relief.

4. Allows States to Waive Only Some Regulations

While states may waive some Obamacare regulations, they can’t waive others, an internal inconsistency that belies the promise of “flexibility.” For instance, states cannot waive the under-26 mandate if they so choose. Moreover, language on page 15 prohibiting a waiver of “any requirement under a federal statute enacted before January 1, 2009” precludes states from waiving regulations that preceded Obamacare, such as those related to mental health parity.

If the sponsors believe in state flexibility, they should allow states to waive all federal insurance regulations, even ones, such as the under-26 mandate or mental health parity, they may personally support. Or better yet, they should move to repeal the regulations entirely, and let states decide which ones they want to re-enact on the state level.

5. No Funding Equals No Waivers

Because the bill explicitly ties waivers to federal funding, as noted above, the “cliff” whereby block grant funding ends in 2027 effectively ends waiver programs then as well. Such a scenario would put conservative policy-makers in the perverse position of asking Washington to increase federal spending, because any regulatory relief under Obamacare would otherwise cease.

Meaning of Federalism

The potential concerns above demonstrate how Graham-Cassidy may not provide full flexibility to states. Whether through cumbersome administrative requirements, a future Democratic administration, court rulings, or key omissions, states could find that as written, the bill’s promise of flexibility might turn into a mirage.

Given that, it’s worth remembering the true definition of federalism in the first place. Federalism should not represent states getting permission from Washington to take certain actions (and only certain actions). It should represent the people delegating some authority to the federal government, and some to the states. A bill that looked to do that—to remove the Obamacare regulatory apparatus entirely, and allow states to decide whether and what portions of the law they wish to reimpose—would help to restore the principles of federalism, and a true balance between Washington and the states.

This post was originally published at The Federalist.

Insurance Commissioners’ CSR Malpractice

Today, a Senate committee hearing will feature testimony from insurance commissioners about the status of Obamacare in their home states. It will undoubtedly feature pleas from those commissioners for billions of new dollars in federal funds to subsidize insurance markets. But before Congress spends a single dime, it should take a hard look at insurance commissioners’ compliance with their regulatory duties regarding Obamacare. On several counts, preliminary results do not look promising.

Of particular issue at today’s hearing, and in health insurance markets generally: Federal payments to insurers for cost-sharing reductions, discounts on co-payments, and deductibles provided to certain low-income individuals. Obamacare authorized those payments to insurers, but did not include an appropriation for them. Despite lacking an explicit appropriation, the Obama administration started making the payments anyway when the exchanges began operation in 2014.

Rightfully objecting to an intrusion on its constitutional “power of the purse,” the House of Representatives filed suit to block the payments in November 2014. In May 2016, a federal district court judge ruled the insurer payments unconstitutional, halting them unless and until Congress granted an explicit appropriation.

By the middle of 2016, it seemed clear that the cost-sharing reduction payments lay in significant jeopardy. While the federal district court allowed the payments to continue during the Obama administration’s appeal, a final court ruling could strike them down permanently. Moreover, a new administration would commence in January 2017, and could stop the payments immediately. And neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump had publicly committed to maintaining the insurer payments upon taking office.

Let’s Let the Problem Fester to Put Trump in a Bind

How did insurance commissioners respond to this growing threat to the cost-sharing reduction payments? In at least some cases, they did nothing. For instance, in response to my public records request, the office of Dave Jones, California’s insurance commissioner, admitted that it had no documents examining the impact of last May’s court ruling on the 2017 plan bid year.

To call this lack of analysis regarding cost-sharing reductions malfeasance would put it mildly. A new president could easily have cut off those payments—payments totaling $7 billion this fiscal year—unilaterally on January 20. Yet the regulator of the state’s largest insurance market had not so much as a single e-mail considering this scenario, nor examining what his state would do in such an occurrence.

For Democrats such as Jones, last year’s silence on cost-sharing reductions represents a happy coincidence. Had insurance commissioners required insurers to price in a contingency margin for 2017—to reflect uncertainty over whether the federal payments would continue—those higher premiums would undoubtedly have hurt Clinton during last fall’s campaign. Instead, liberals like Jones who remained quiet last year have suddenly started shouting from the rooftops about “uncertainty” leading to higher premiums—because they believe Trump, not Clinton, will bear the political blame.

Break the Law to Fund Our Political War Against You

Indeed, insurance commissioners who remained silent last year about cost-sharing reduction payments have responded this year in alarming fashion. The commissioners’ trade association wrote to the Trump administration in May asking them “to continue full funding for the cost-sharing reduction payments for 2017 and make a commitment that such payments will continue.”

The insurance commissioners essentially demanded the Trump administration violate the Constitution. Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution grants Congress the sole power to appropriate funds, and the Supreme Court in a prior case (Train v. City of New York) ruled that the executive cannot thwart that will by declining to spend funds already appropriated. Under the Constitution, a president cannot spend money, or refuse to spend money, unilaterally—but that’s exactly what the insurance commissioners requested.

By implicitly conceding the unconstitutional actions by the Obama administration, and asking the Trump administration to continue those acts, the commissioners’ own letter exposes their dilemma. Why did commissioners ever assume the stability of a marketplace premised upon unconstitutional actions? And why did commissioners purportedly committed to the rule of law ask for those unconstitutional actions to continue?

Regardless of whether members of Congress wish to make the payments to insurers, they should first demand answers from insurance commissioners for their regulatory failure. Insurance commissioners’ collective ignorance that the unconstitutional cost-sharing reduction payments could disappear closely mimics banks’ flawed assumptions in the years leading up to the subprime mortgage collapse. Unless Congress relishes the thought of passing another TARP program, they would be wise to exercise their oversight authority before they even think about getting out the taxpayers’ checkbook.

This post was originally published at The Federalist.

208 Things in Obamacare That Democrats Support

Last week, former HELP Committee staffer John McDonough wrote a list of “50 provisions I ask the media to ask Romney et al. if they are committed to repealing as President.”  McDonough noted that “there are [Obamacare] provisions opponents could pick out to create an alternative list for elimination.”

We know a challenge when we hear one; our list is submitted below, with sections from the statute duly noted.  Remember when reading this list:  We KNOW that President Obama and Democrats all support these provisions in Obamacare – because they all voted to enact them into law.  So members of the media can readily ask President Obama and Democrat Members of Congress why they supported a law that…

  1. Imposes $800 billion in tax increases, including no fewer than 12 separate provisions breaking candidate Obama’s “firm pledge” during his campaign that he would not raise “any of your taxes” (Sections 9001-9016)?
  2. Forces Americans to purchase a product for the first time ever (Section 1501)?
  3. Creates a board of 15 unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats to make binding rulings on how to reduce Medicare spending (Section 3403)?
  4. Pays over $800 billion in subsidies straight to health insurance companies (Sections 1401, 1402, and 1412)?
  5. Requires all individuals to buy government-approved health insurance plans, imposing new mandates that will raise individual insurance premiums by an average of $2,100 per family (Section 1302)?
  6. Forces seniors to lose their current health care, by enacting Medicare Advantage cuts that by 2017 will cut enrollment in half, and cut plan choices by two-thirds (Section 3201)?
  7. Imposes a 40 percent tax on health benefits, a direct contradiction of Barack Obama’s campaign promises (Section 9001)?
  8. Relies upon government bureaucrats to “issue guidance on best practices of plain language writing” (Section 1311(e)(3)(B))?
  9. Provides special benefits to residents of Libby, Montana – home of Max Baucus, the powerful Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who helped write the law even though he says he hasn’t read it (Section 10323)?
  10. Imposes what a Democrat Governor called the “mother of all unfunded mandates” – new, Washington-dictated requirements of at least $118 billion – at a time when states already face budget deficits totaling a collective $175 billion (Section 2001)?
  11. Imposes reductions in Medicare spending that, according to the program’s non-partisan actuary, would cause 40 percent of all Medicare providers to become unprofitable, and could lead to their exit from the program (Section 3401)?
  12. Raises premiums on more than 17 million seniors participating in Medicare Part D, so that Big Pharma can benefit from its “rock-solid deal” struck behind closed doors with President Obama and Congressional Democrats (Section 3301)?
  13. Creates an institute to undertake research that, according to one draft Committee report prepared by Democrats, could mean that “more expensive [treatments] will no longer be prescribed” (Section 6301)?
  14. Creates a multi-billion dollar “slush fund” doled out solely by federal bureaucrats, which has already been used to fund things like bike paths (Section 4002)?
  15. Subjects states to myriad new lawsuits, by forcing them to assume legal liability for delivering services to Medicaid patients for the first time in that program’s history (Section 2304)?
  16. Permits taxpayer dollars to flow to health plans that fund abortion, in a sharp deviation from prior practice under Democrat and Republican Administrations (Section 1303)?
  17. Empowers bureaucrats on a board that has ruled against mammograms and against prostate cancer screenings to make binding determinations about what types of preventive services should be covered (Sections 2713 and 4104)?
  18. Precludes poor individuals from having a choice of health care plans by automatically dumping them in the Medicaid program (Section 1413(a))?
  19. Creates a new entitlement program that one Democrat called “a Ponzi scheme of the first order, the kind of thing that Bernie Madoff would have been proud of” – a scheme so unsustainable even the Administration was forced to admit it would not work (Section 8002)?
  20. Provides $5 billion in taxpayer dollars to a fund that has largely served to bail out unions and other organizations who made unsustainable health care promises to retirees that they cannot afford (Section 1102)?
  21. Creates a tax credit so convoluted it requires seven different worksheets to determine eligibility (Section 1421)?
  22. Imposes multiple penalties on those who marry, by reducing subsidies (and increasing taxes) for married couples when compared to two individuals cohabiting together (Sections 1401-02)?
  23. Extends the Medicare “payroll tax” to unearned income for the first time ever, including new taxes on the sale of some homes (Section 1402)?
  24. Impedes state flexibility by requiring Medicaid programs to offer a specific package of benefits, including benefits like family planning services (Sections 2001(a)(2), 2001(c), 1302(b), and 2303(c))?
  25. Requires individuals to go to the doctor and get a prescription in order to spend their own Flexible Spending Account money on over-the-counter medicines (Section 9003)?
  26. Expands the definition of “low-income” to make 63 percent of non-elderly Americans eligible for “low-income” subsidized insurance (Section 1401)?
  27. Imposes a new tax on the makers of goods like pacemakers and hearing aids (Section 9009)?
  28. Creates an insurance reimbursement scheme that could result in the federal government obtaining Americans’ medical records (Section 1343)?
  29. Permits states to make individuals presumptively eligible for Medicaid for unlimited 60-day periods, thus allowing any individual to receive taxpayer-funded assistance ad infinitum (Section 2303(b))?
  30. Allows individuals to purchase insurance on government exchanges – and to receive taxpayer-funded insurance subsidies – WITHOUT verifying their identity as American citizens (Section 1411)?
  31. Gives $300 million in higher Medicaid reimbursements to one state as part of the infamous “Louisiana Purchase” – described by ABC News as “what…it take[s] to get a wavering senator to vote for health care reform” (Section 2006)?
  32. Raises taxes on firms who cannot afford to buy coverage for their workers (Section 1513)?
  33. Forces younger Americans to pay double-digit premium increases so that older workers can pay slightly less (Section 1201)?
  34. Prohibits states from modifying their Medicaid programs to include things like modest anti-fraud protections (Section 2001)?
  35. Includes a special provision increasing federal payments just for Tennessee (Section 1203(b))?
  36. Allows individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines – but only if politicians and bureaucrats agree to allow citizens this privilege (Section 1333)?
  37. Allows the HHS Secretary and federal bureaucrats to grant waivers exempting people from Obamacare’s onerous mandates, over half of which have gone to members of union plans (Section 1001)?
  38. Creates a pseudo-government-run plan overseen by the federal government (Section 1334)?
  39. Removes a demonstration project designed to force government-run Medicare to compete on a level playing field with private plans (Section 1102(f))?
  40. Gives the Secretary of HHS an UNLIMITED amount of federal funds to spend funding state insurance Exchanges (Section 1311(a))?
  41. Creates a grant program that could be used by liberal groups like ACORN or AARP to conduct “public education activities” surrounding Obamacare (Section 1311(i))?
  42. Applies new federal mandates to pre-Obamacare insurance policies, thus proving that you CAN’T keep the insurance plan you had – and liked – before the law passed (Sections 2301 and 10103)?
  43. Prohibits individuals harmed by federal bureaucrats from challenging those decisions, either in court or through regulatory processes (Sections 3001, 3003, 3007, 3008, 3021, 3022, 3025, 3133, 3403, 5501, 6001, AND 6401)?
  44. Earmarks $100 million for “construction of a health care facility,” a “sweetheart deal” inserted by a Democrat Senator trying to win re-election (Section 10502)?
  45. Puts yet another Medicaid unfunded mandate on states, by raising payments to primary care physicians, but only for two years, forcing states to come up with another method of funding this unsustainable promise when federal funding expires (Section 1202)?
  46. Imposes price controls that have had the effect of costing jobs in the short time since they were first implemented (Section 1001)?
  47. Prohibits individuals from spending federal insurance subsidies outside government-approved Exchanges (Section 1401(a))?
  48. Provides a special increase in federal hospital payments just for Hawaii (Section 10201(e)(1))?
  49. Imposes new reporting requirements that will cost businesses millions of dollars, and affect thousands of restaurants and other establishments across the country (Section 4205)?

And instead of including a 50th item on our list, we’re going to include 159 separate items.  These are the 159 new boards, bureaucracies, and programs created by Obamacare.  You can find the list here.

No matter which way you look at it, this list provides 208 easy reasons why the American people still continue to reject Democrats’ unpopular 2700-page health care law.

Obama’s “Bait and Switch” on the Berwick Nomination

Late on Friday, John McDonough published a blog post in the Boston Globe entitled “Why Berwick Matters.”  He intended to use the posting as a means to attack Republicans – but in reality his revealing comments unwittingly serve as an indictment of Democrats, Obamacare, and Berwick for political gamesmanship over the nomination.

As many of you know, McDonough served as Sen. Kennedy’s point person on health “reform” through his senior post on the HELP Committee during 2009-10.  It is therefore with a strong insider perspective that McDonough’s post included the following bombshell:

It was a thrilling moment when it became clear that Berwick had been selected by President-elect Barack Obama and the new Secretary of Health & Human Services, Tom Daschle, to run the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  Finally, the key U.S. health agency would be headed by a physician thoroughly committed to fundamental quality and system improvement, as well as patient empowerment.  It was a heady — and short-lived — moment.

If you think the reference to HHS Secretary Daschle was a typo, it wasn’t; the piece continues:

In late January 2009, Daschle’s nomination blew up over his unpaid taxes.  Berwick’s nomination — which would have sailed through an easy confirmation in early 2009 — was held aside while a successor was recruited, and then the Administration began looking at other names.  The health reform legislative campaign provided another reason to delay, and so it was not until April, 2010 that the President nominated Berwick.

In other words, the White House intended to have Berwick head CMS all along – but delayed the nomination until AFTER Obamacare passed, because it knew how controversial he was.  What McDonough’s piece elides over is the fact that Daschle’s withdrawn nomination prompted the new Administration to engage in closer scrutiny of its nominees.  It’s likely that Berwick’s history of support for British socialized medicine – including his comments about the NHS being a “seductress” – emerged at that time.  At which point, according to McDonough’s account, the Administration scrapped the idea of nominating Berwick – at least until AFTER Obamacare passed.  All of which raises the question:  If Berwick was so unpopular that the Administration couldn’t bring itself to nominate Berwick in the light of day – i.e., to make a clear statement before Obamacare passed that Berwick would be the one to implement the law – why was ever he nominated at all?

McDonough concludes his blog post by saying that Senate Republicans engaged in “meaningful disrespect” of the nominee, a similar tone to the White House reaction that said “a small group of senators…[were] putting political interests above the best interests of the American people.”  In reality however, McDonough’s account makes clear that the real disrespect was being driven by the Obama Administration, which refused for political reasons to inform the American people before Obamacare’s enactment that the unpopular health care bill would be implemented by an even more unpopular and controversial appointed bureaucrat.

Tom Harkin Calls for Cost-Effectiveness Research in Medicare

In case you weren’t watching the HELP Committee hearing on FDA, Chairman Harkin just commented that while the Food and Drug Administration analyzes the safety of pharmaceuticals, it’s the role of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to analyze the “cost-effectiveness” of these treatments.  In other words, Sen. Harkin said he wants Medicare bureaucrats to analyze treatments based on their cost – the implication being that those deemed “too expensive” by federal bureaucrats should be denied to patients.

Unfortunately, these views are far from a minority opinion among Obamacare supporters.  Just last week, the liberal Commonwealth Fund hosted a briefing with the CEO of Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).  Its acronym notwithstanding, NICE has proven to be anything but for British patients – denying access to important life-saving, and life-extending, treatments based solely or primarily on their cost.  A series of examples can be found in this one-pager.

Similarly, CMS Administrator Donald Berwick – whose controversial views about “rationing with our eyes open” have made Democrats afraid to even consider his nomination – has also asserted that NICE and other similar bodies conducting cost-effectiveness research “have created benchmarks of best practices that we could learn from and adapt in this country.”

Obamacare created a new board of 15 unaccountable bureaucrats with the power to make binding rulings about Medicare policy.  Today’s comments by Chairman Harkin about Medicare conducting cost-effectiveness research once again illustrate why Democrats set up such an unelected board:  To have bureaucrats deny “expensive” treatments to Medicare patients.

Lowering Health Spending — Through a Bad Economy

At the HELP Committee hearing taking place now, head of the Medicare program Jonathan Blum again repeated the myth that this year’s lower-than-expected increase* in Part B premiums was due to Obamacare’s ability to lower costs through things like “investments” in prevention (read: jungle gyms).  That however is NOT what the non-partisan Medicare actuary concluded was responsible for the slowdown health cost growth; here’s the first paragraph of the actuary’s most recent summary of national health expenditure projections:

“In 2010, NHE is projected to have reached $2.6 trillion and grown 3.9 percent, down from 4.0 percent in 2009.  Estimated spending growth in 2010 was slow due to continuing declines in employment and private health insurance coverage associated with the recent recession.”

In other words, spending growth was slower – and the Medicare premium hike lower – than projected NOT because Obamacare worked, but because the Obama “stimulus” didn’t.  Put another way: If the Administration wants to take credit for the lower-than-expected increase in Medicare premiums, does it also (finally) want to accept blame for the lousy economic conditions that were its primary cause?
 

* And just in case you forgot, candidate Obama promised to CUT premiums by an average of $2,500 per familyso ANY premium increase by definition means the law has failed to achieve its promised savings.

More Fake Obamacare Savings Exposed?

In case you weren’t watching the HELP Committee hearing before the recess for votes, Sen. Kirk REPEATEDLY asked the head of the Medicare program, Jon Blum, to request a letter from the Medicare actuary regarding the potential savings (or lack thereof) from the Administration’s Partnership for Patients initiative.  Blum repeatedly declined to give such a commitment that he would request a formal estimate from the actuary quantifying the Partnership’s actual savings, stating only that he would “consult” the actuary’s office.  He also included several hypothetical caveats talking about whether or not the actuary would recognize the savings from the program the Administration assumes.  The clear impression from the extended exchange is that the Administration will only request an estimate from the actuary if it aligns with their rhetoric – if it does not, then such an estimate either won’t be requested, or won’t be released publicly.

All this is particularly relevant given the ongoing CLASS Act debacle.  As a reminder, the Medicare actuary said on Day One that the program had “terminal problem[s]” – a bit of candor for which the Administration decided to shun him, shutting out his dissenting views from the Administration’s internal deliberations.  The actuary who predicted the CLASS program’s failure two years ago is the same actuary whom Mr. Blum did not want to scrutinize about whether the Partnership for Patients will achieve actual savings.  How is this behavior consistent with fiscal rectitude from the “most transparent and accountable” Administration?

Last month saw $86 billion in fake Obamacare savings disappear once the CLASS Act charade was exposed for what it was.  Given today’s exchange, some must wonder if the Administration is engaging in the exact same type of gamesmanship we saw with the CLASS Act – trumpeting fake savings that will never happen, and circumventing non-partisan analysts to achieve partisan political goals.

More Amnesia: Democrats Said They Would CUT Premiums — Not Just Slow Their Growth

At the HELP Committee hearing, Senator Franken just claimed that Democrats NEVER said premiums would go down – they said premiums would just go up by less than expected.  Well, that’s not what Democrats have argued, on several levels.

Democrats have frequently said they did NOT “cut” Medicare as part of Obamacare – they merely “slowed the growth rate.”  Well, by that logic, a CUT constitutes a premium reduction in absolute terms – not just slowing the growth of premium increases, as Senator Franken claimed.

Still don’t believe me?  Well, to quote Reading Rainbow, don’t take my word for it.  A series of campaign quotes from candidate Obama – all talking about CUTTING premiums (i.e., reductions in absolute terms) by $2,500 per family – are gathered in a YouTube clip.  That video, which features Obama making the premium cut promise 20 separate times, is available here.

Administration’s Amnesia on How Obamacare Will Raise Premiums

Testifying before the HELP Committee, Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight Director Steve Larsen just claimed not to recall all the details of the CBO analysis of health insurance premium increases under Obamacare, but alleged that the impact on premiums would be “minimal.”  Seeing as how Director Larsen didn’t know all the details, here’s what CBO said on page 6 of its November 2009 analysis of Obamacare’s impact on premiums:

“Average premiums per policy in the nongroup market in 2016 would be roughly $5,800 for single policies and $15,200 for family policies under the proposal, compared with roughly $5,500 for single policies and $13,100 for family policies under current law.”

That amounts to a $2,100 per year increase for a family buying individual insurance, thanks to Obamacare – and a $4,600 per family difference between the increases due to the law President Obama signed and the $2,500 per-family premium reduction candidate Obama repeatedly promised.  Given that the Administration’s policy is costing a whopping $4,600 per family more than candidate Obama’s political rhetoric, is it any wonder that the Administration would claim not to remember how much Obamacare will raise premiums on struggling American families?

One More Way Obamacare Is Hurting Families and Children

In case you hadn’t seen it, Sen. Enzi’s staff earlier today released a report outlining how Obamacare has reduced access to insurance coverage for children across the country.  Specifically, the onerous mandates imposed in Obamacare – coupled with the inept way the Administration has implemented the law – has resulted in 17 states not having access to child-only insurance policiesIn a total of 39 states, at least one insurance company has exited the child-only insurance marketplace.

These difficulties come because the Administration, in implementing the law, required insurance companies to accept ALL applicants for child-only insurance, regardless of health status.  Many companies, fearing (rightly) that they would be deluged with applications from individuals with costly medical conditions, decided to limit their involvement and/or exit the child-only insurance market entirely.  Now, thanks to these misguided policies under Obamacare, millions of Americans have no easy options to obtain health insurance coverage for their children.

Former Speaker Pelosi famously said we had to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.  Unfortunately, millions of American families seeking to obtain insurance coverage for their children are finding out that a provision designed to increase access to insurance coverage, particularly for children with pre-existing conditions, has in reality only served to decrease access.  And if this child-only insurance debacle portends similar problems as Obamacare gets rolled out fully in 2014, millions more Americans may find out the unexpected consequences of the 2,700 page health care law three years from now.