Tag: max baucus

More Questions for Secretary Sebelius

Given the growing concern even among Democrats that ObamaCare will result in a “huge train wreck” later this year, I have a few questions for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to add to my previous list:

  1. What happens if a federal court (say, the Eastern District of Oklahoma) issues an injunction barring HHS from making “advance payments of tax credits” in the 33 states with federal Exchanges?
  2. Has HHS done any planning for that contingency? If so, what are those contingency plans?
  3. If HHS has not, why not? Given that the Congressional Research Service and Harvard Law Review both say there’s a credible case that the PPACA forbids tax credits in the 33 states with federal Exchanges, how could HHS not have a contingency plan ready?

For more on how HHS is violating federal law by planning to issue advance payments of tax credits through federal Exchanges, read my Cato white paper, “50 Vetoes: How States Can Stop the Obama Health Care Law,” and my Health Matrix article (with Jonathan Adler), “Taxation Without Representation: The Illegal IRS Rule to Expand Tax Credits Under the PPACA.

Pompeo to Baucus: You Wrote this ‘Train Wreck’

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is having none of Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) trying to dodge responsibility for the coming ObamaCare “train wreck.” Here’s a letter Pompeo sent to Baucus yesterday:

Dear Senator Baucus,

     I was stunned, and also saddened, to read of your complaint that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is doing an insufficient job informing the public about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), otherwise known as Obamacare.  My shock wasn’t because I disagreed: You’re right to say this legislation has led to great uncertainty for hard-working Americans, small business owners, and families.  No, I was shocked because you wrote this bill.  I was saddened because your acknowledgement of the harm caused by PPACA has come so late.

     Unlike you, the American people have opposed this law from the moment it was first introduced in Congress.  How hard was it to see that even the smartest government bureaucrats can’t competently plan something as complicated as America’s health-care sector?

     President Obama’s proposal to rescind the Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments for 2014 is an admission that this law will not work as written.  The IRS is violating the clear language of this law by planning to spend more than half a trillion dollars and tax millions of employers and individuals without congressional authorization.

     No one in the country bears more responsibility for the complexity of this law than you.  When your supermajority couldn’t pass the bill using normal procedures, you and your Senate colleagues rammed through the final legislation by using parliamentary gimmickry.  Then, in the House, Speaker Pelosi cheerfully urged members to pass the legislation “in order to find out what’s in it.”

     This was not good policy-making, and now we’re seeing the consequences.

     Implementation is still going full steam ahead despite numerous problems—with your support.  Contrary to the legislation and the administration’s myriad promises, the SHOP exchanges have been delayed by a year.  Officials have admitted that they’ve gone from worrying over the color of fonts on a website to just making sure that the exchanges aren’t a “third world experience.”  Little to no information has been provided about how the exchanges will function.

     Each one of these problems results from legislation you authored and your colleagues supported.  And yet many Republicans, at every step of the process, issued warnings and condemnations based on exactly these inevitable problems. We warned that businesses would drop coverage. We warned that Americans would not be able to keep a doctor or plan that they liked. We warned that insurance premiums would increase.  

     Secretary Sebelius’s implementation of the law is certainly flawed, but the policy process produced a law that could not possibly be implemented successfully.  As legislators, it is our responsibility to write bills that clearly explain our meaning and have achievable goals.  By your own admission, this law is a disaster.

     Make no mistake.  Unless you act before it’s too late, the American people are going to hold you personally responsible for the failings of this law that negatively impact their jobs, their health, and their families.  You drafted it, you twisted arms to get it passed, and, until now, you have lauded it as a model for all the world.  Your attempts to pass the buck to President Obama’s team will not work, nor will they absolve you of responsibility for the harm that you have brought via this law.

     Republicans have repeatedly offered legislation to repeal PPACA and replace it with more sustainable reforms that would have bipartisan support.  Perhaps we can work together to fix this mess before it’s too late.  We stand ready to repeal the law and put forward legislation that will truly benefit patients and their doctors.

     I look forward to hearing from you.

     Sincerely,

     Mike Pompeo

     Member of Congress

     Kansas 4th District

Questions for Secretary Sebelius

Secretary of Health and Humans Services Kathleen Sebelius has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill, testifying in favor of President Obama’s proposed budget and generally trying to assure members of Congress that all is well with ObamaCare implementation. Even supporters of the law are freaking out nervous, as I discuss here.

Since everyone else is pestering Sebelius with questions, I thought I would post some questions I would like to hear her answer.

Video of Baucus’ ‘Train Wreck’ Comments

Perhaps you have now heard that today ObamaCare’s primary author, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), predicted a “huge train wreck” when the law takes full effect later this year. Here’s the video

Edited for you by the folks at American Commitment. They even coined a hashtag: #trainwreck.

Will the Last ObamaCare Supporter Please Turn off the Lights?

Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) was the primary author of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known colloquially and affectionately as ObamaCare. Today, he predicted his own law would cause a “huge train wreck” when the federal government begins implementing it fully later this year. He’s not the only one who’s worried. Other Democratic senators have expressed concerns. An Obama administration official recently offered this vote of confidence:

We are under 200 days from open enrollment, and I’m pretty nervous…The time for debating about the size of text on the screen or the color or is it a world-class user experience, that’s what we used to talk about two years ago…Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience.

How could Baucus come to fear his own bill? Maybe because he never read it, as he admitted to his Libby, Montana, constituents in 2010:

Naturally, a Baucus flack later clarified what he meant:

Senator Baucus wrote the bill that passed the Finance Committee and then worked with his colleagues to write the health care bill that is law today. He has spent years crafting this policy and hundreds of hours reading and perfecting it. There is simply no question that he understands the provisions in the health care law…

If so, perhaps Baucus could explain the law to his colleague, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). Rockefeller may have spent more time studying health care than any other U.S. senator, Baucus included. For example, Rockefeller founded the Alliance for Health Reform and headed the organization for more than a decade. And yet Rockefeller finds ObamaCare to be “the most complex piece of legislation ever passed by the United States Congress” and “just beyond comprehension”:

But can we really blame Baucus if ObamaCare supporters – including himself – didn’t understand the bill they were passing? After all, he warned us that not all of them would understand it:

So to recap: Baucus wrote an early draft of the law, helped to write subsequent drafts, didn’t read the final law, totally understands it, and now fears it.

Will the last ObamaCare supporter please turn off the lights?

Max Baucus, ObamaCare’s Lead Author, Sees ‘Huge Train Wreck Coming Down’

I should probably just turn this one over to Sam Baker at The Hill:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Wednesday he fears a “train wreck” as the Obama administration implements its signature healthcare law.

Baucus, the chairman of the powerful Finance Committee and a key architect of the healthcare law, said he’s afraid people do not understand how the law will work.

“I just see a huge train wreck coming down,” Baucus told Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a Wednesday hearing. “You and I have discussed this many times, and I don’t see any results yet.”

Baucus pressed Sebelius for details about how HHS will explain the law and raise awareness of its key provisions, which are supposed to take effect in just a matter of months.

“I’m very concerned that not enough is being done so far — very concerned,” Baucus said.

He pressed Sebelius to explain how her department will overcome entrenched misunderstandings about what the healthcare law does.

“Small businesses have no idea what to do, what to expect,” Baucus said.

Citing anecdotal evidence from small businesses in his home state, Baucus asked Sebelius for specifics about how it is measuring public understanding of the law.

“You need data. Do you have any data? You’ve never given me data. You only give me concepts, frankly,” Baucus told Sebelius.

Sebelius said the administration is not independently monitoring public awareness of specific provisions, but will be embarking on a substantial education campaign beginning this summer.

Baucus is facing a competitive reelection fight next year, and Republicans are sure to attack him over his role as the primary author of the healthcare law.

A messy rollout of the law’s major provisions, just months before Baucus faces voters, could feed into the GOP’s criticism.

Wednesday’s hearing wasn’t the first time Democrats — including Baucus — have raised concerns about the implementation effort. But while other lawmakers have toned down their public comments as they’ve gotten answers from Sebelius, Baucus said Sebelius has not addressed his fears.

“I’m going to keep on this until I feel a lot better about it,” Baucus told Sebelius…

Enrollment in the healthcare law’s insurance exchanges is slated to begin in October, for coverage that begins in January. Baucus, though, said he’s worried exchanges won’t be ready in time.

“For the marketplaces to work, people need to know about them,” Baucus said. “People need to know their options and how to enroll.”

Who knew that running the health care sector would be hard.

The IRS’s Illegal ObamaCare Taxes, Bagenstos Edition

As I posted a week ago today, Jonathan Adler and I have a paper titled, “Taxation Without Representation: The Illegal IRS Rule to Expand Tax Credits Under the PPACA.” Our central claims are:

  1. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act explicitly restricts its “premium-assistance tax credits” (and thus the “cost-sharing subsidies” and employer- and individual-mandate penalties those tax credits trigger) to health insurance “exchanges” established by states;
  2. The IRS has no authority to offer those entitlements or impose those taxes in states that opt not to create Exchanges; and
  3. The IRS’s ongoing attempt to impose those taxes and issue those entitlements through Exchanges established by the federal government is contrary to congressional intent and the clear language of the Act.

We hope to post an updated draft of our paper, with lots of new material, soon.

At the Disability Law blog and Balkinization, University of Michigan law professor Samuel Bagenstos writes that our claims are “deeply legally flawed.”

Like others before him, Bagenstos’s main argument in support of the IRS reduces to the absurd claim that the federal government can establish an Exchange that is established by a state. He also offers two new arguments. Each is a non sequitur, and like his main argument is contradicted by the express language of the statute.

As I have written before:

[T]he statute is crystal clear. It explicitly and laboriously restricts tax credits to those who buy health insurance in Exchanges “established by the State under section 1311.” There is no parallel language – none whatsoever – granting eligibility through Exchanges established by the federal government (section 1321).

(Bagenstos claims the statute’s tax-credit-eligibility provisions use the phrase “established by the State under section 1311” only twice. He neglects to mention: how the eligibility provisions refer to those limiting phrases an additional five times; that there is no language contradicting or creating any ambiguity about the limitation they create; and that the statute also restricts its “cost-sharing subsidies” to situations where “a credit is allowed” under those eligibility rules. At the risk of repeating myself, the eligibility rules for the credits and subsidies are so tightly worded, they seem designed to prevent precisely what the IRS is trying to do.)

Bagenstos correctly notes that Section 1321 directs the federal government to create Exchanges within states that fail to create their own. Like others before him, he takes that directive to mean that the phrase “established by the State under section 1311” in fact ”does not have the exclusionary meaning” you might think. The statute authorizes tax credits through federal Exchanges, he argues, because federal Exchanges are ”established by the State under section 1311.” The federal government, it turns out, can establish an Exchange that is established by a state.

Like others before him, Bagenstos finesses the absurdity of that claim by arguing that Section 1321 provides that a federal Exchange ”will stand in the shoes of a state-operated exchange.” So far as I can tell, the “stand in the shoes” trope was first advanced by Judy Solomon of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. It is based on a 180-degree misreading of Section 1321. If a state chooses not to dance, Section 1321 doesn’t instruct the federal government to step inside (read: commandeer) the state’s dancing shoes. It directs the federal government put on its own dancing shoes, and to follow all the dance steps listed in Title I. Since the language restricting tax credits to state-created Exchanges appears in—you guessed it—Title I, federal Exchanges are bound by that restriction.

Bagenstos’s second argument is that since it was not necessary for Congress to restrict tax credits to state-created Exchanges to overcome the “commandeering problem,” the statute does not do so. But that’s a non sequitur. Just because Congress didn’t have to do something doesn’t mean Congress didn’t do it. The express language of the statute says Congress did it.

Bagenstos’s third argument is that because the Senate Finance Committee didn’t have to restrict tax credits to state-created Exchanges in order to have jurisdiction to direct states to create them, the Committee-approved language—which is now law—must not do so. Again, that’s a non sequitur. And not only does the express language of the statute impose that restriction, but Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) admitted that’s what he was doing.

Along the way, Bagenstos contradicts himself, Baucus, and Timothy Jost by categorically claiming, “Nor is there any reason to think that Congress would have intended to treat participants in state- and federally-operated exchanges differently,” while conceding the commandeering problem and the Finance Committee’s limited jurisdiction are two reasons why Congress might have intended to do so.

Bagenstos’s interpretation of the statute violates the “mere surplusage” canon of statutory interpretation. It violates the expressio unius est exclusio alterius canon of statutory interpretation. It violates common sense.

Like others before him, Bagenstos offers no rebuttal to Baucus’s admission that the  statute means exactly what it says, and nothing whatsoever from the legislative history that supports the IRS’s attempt to violate the express language of the statute by imposing taxes that Congress never authorized.

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