Last Friday, House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and colleagues sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman accusing Treasury of "either willfully misleading the Committee or...purposefully withholding information that is essential to the Committee’s oversight effort."
As Jonathan Adler and I document in our forthcoming Health Matrix article, "Taxation Without Representation: The Illegal IRS Rule to Expand Tax Credits Under the PPACA," the IRS has announced it will impose ObamaCare's taxes on employers and individuals whom Congress expressly exempted from those taxes, and will send potentially hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to private health insurance companies, also contrary to the plain language of the statute. Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt has filed a legal challenge to the IRS rule that imposes those illegal taxes.
On August 20, the committee sent IRS commissioner Shulman a letter requesting "all legal analysis, internal or external, conducted by the IRS which authorizes IRS to grant premium-assistance tax credits in federal Exchanges," and "all documents and communications between IRS employees and employees of the White House Executive Office of the President or any other federal agency or department referring or relating to the proposed IRS rule or final IRS rule."
When Treasury responded for the IRS on October 12, according to committee member Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), it "failed to include a single document, memorandum, communication, or email created before the publication of the proposed rule on August 17, 2011"—i.e., when all the interesting discussions would have occurred. The committee’s second letter complains, "Treasury did not provide a single piece of evidence to support its claim that IRS complied with the standard process when issuing this rule."
Thus, the committee threatened, "If you do not provide all of the requested information by Thursday, October 25, 2012, the Committee will consider the use of compulsory process." Developing...
For more on this issue, see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
That's the (fair) title of this blog post over at National Journal's Influence Alley:
The federal government needs more money. That's one thing both parties can agree on, Republican and Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday. The rub, of course, is how to get it.
Reps. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., and Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa. said at a National Journal panel on Tuesday morning that there's no question that more revenue is needed. Democrats say they can raise the money by letting upper-income tax cuts expire, while Republicans say economic growth alone will help raise the cash.
"We need more revenue," said Roskam, the House GOP's chief deputy whip. "If you can get the money to satisfy obligations, that's an area of common ground."
Let's hear it for duopoly, eh, comrades? Without it, we might suffer political parties that question whether those government "obligations" are wise, or necessary, or constitutional; or that point out governments don't have needs, people do; or that reject the premise that politics is an exercise in deciding who needs what; or that argue for eliminating entire spheres of government activity. Can you tell I've just watched a presidential debate?
Evidently, there's fraud in Medicaid.
The following are excerpts from an article in today's Wall Street Journal. See if you can spot the fraud lobby:
In 2011, New York charged [Medicaid] a per-diem rate of $5,118 for residents of the [state-run] institutions, a network of 11 centers that now house about 1,300 people with severe developmental disabilities. Over the course of a year, Medicaid spends $1.9 million for every resident, or $2.5 billion in total—with half coming from the federal government. But the cost of running the institutions is only a quarter of that amount.
[A congressional] report said New York took advantage of a complex formula and kept federal officials in the dark for years...
The committee's report said Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration refused to cooperate with the investigation. Joshua Vlasto, a spokesman for Mr. Cuomo, said the report's conclusions were "wrong and totally misleading" and that a threatened "precipitous reduction" in funding would jeopardize administration efforts to modernize and restructure its Medicaid program...
But at a Thursday hearing, Penny Thompson, a CMS deputy director, suggested..., "You can expect to see a rate that's about one-fifth of its current level" ... without specifying a time frame. Such a reduction would reduce the annual federal reimbursement by about $1 billion, punching a hole in New York's $54 billion Medicaid program...
The skewed methodology traces back more than 20 years, when New York got permission from the federal government to use a different formula for state-run developmental centers, assuring officials that the rates would hew close to costs.
But almost immediately, reimbursements began to skyrocket. The new methodology allowed New York to bill Medicaid for ghost patients: When a patient was discharged from a state-run facility, New York retained nearly two-thirds of the reimbursement amount. The formula also double-billed taxpayers: Many of those patients who left the centers moved into Medicaid-financed group homes.
Between 1990 and 2011, the daily reimbursement rate grew to $5,118 from $348. Ms. Thompson said it wasn't clear if CMS "completely understood" the cost projections when it approved the rates. CMS officials acknowledge they first became aware of the problem in 2007 but waited three years before launching a probe.
In June 2010, the Poughkeepsie Journal ran a lengthy investigative piece about the rates. CMS started its investigation in response to the newspaper's report, the committee said.
Lest you think I'm blaming Medicaid fraud on one political party, have a gander at my recent article, "Entitlement Bandits":
Even conservatives fight anti-fraud measures, albeit in the name of preventing frivolous litigation, when they oppose expanding whistle-blower lawsuits, where private citizens who help the government win a case get to keep some of the penalty.
Protecting Medicare and Medicaid fraud is a bipartisan pastime.
Overall, this Tennessean article summarizes well yesterday's House Oversight Committee hearing on the IRS rule that Jonathan Adler and I write about here and here. Unfortunately, the article does perpetuate the misleading idea that the nation's new health care law is “missing” language to authorize tax credits in federally created Exchanges. (The statute isn’t missing anything. It language reads exactly as its authors wanted it to read.)
Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ argument that the health-care reform law lacks wording needed to implement a crucial part of it took a major step forward Thursday.
The Jasper Republican got a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on his claim that the Internal Revenue Service lacks authority to tax employers who fail to offer health policies and leave workers to buy coverage through federally established exchanges.
His arguments, while not uncontested during the hearing, apparently won over the committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. Issa signed on Thursday as a co-sponsor of DesJarlais’ bill related to the issue. Other House Republican leaders also have shown interest, DesJarlais said in an interview afterward. He said he expects a vote on the House floor sometime this fall.
And a Senate version has been introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis...
DesJarlais contends that Congress worded the law in a way that authorizes the taxes and tax credits only for insurance bought through state-based exchanges, not federal ones...
The distinction is important because many states are balking at setting up their own exchanges. DesJarlais’ argument would mean federal exchanges couldn’t be implemented in those states, either...
“They have rewritten a law Congress haphazardly drafted,” DesJarlais said.
His bill, which has 35 cosponsors, would keep the IRS from moving forward with its regulatory language.
“I have employers watching this very closely,” DesJarlais added. Essentially, he said, the issue is “about whether ObamaCare can continue to exist.”
The Washington Post reports:
The Supreme Court may have declared that the government can order Americans to get health insurance, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to sign up.
Nowhere is that more evident than Oklahoma, a conservative state with an independent streak and a disdain for the strong arm of government...
When it comes to health insurance, the effort to sign people up isn’t likely to get much help from the state. Antipathy toward President Obama’s signature health-care overhaul runs so deep that when the federal government awarded Oklahoma a large grant to plan for the new law, the governor turned away the money — all $54 million of it.
The idea that the federal government will persuade reluctant people here to get insurance elicited head-shaking chuckles at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse...
But some in Oklahoma aren’t so sure the population here will be easy to persuade, especially if the state government continues to condemn “Obamacare.”
“If we’re not being cooperative and all the rhetoric is hostile, then that’s going to be a real barrier to providing information to people,” said David Blatt, director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a state policy think tank. “There’s a lot of important outreach that needs to happen before January 1, 2014, and it’s going to be extremely difficult to do that when you have state leaders standing there saying, ‘Over our dead bodies.’ ”
Resistance remains strong in other states as well, with some governors promising to opt out of parts of the law.
Wait until states find out that they can block ObamaCare's employer mandate just by refusing to create an Exchange.
The website CapitolWords.org allows you to track the use of words uttered by members of Congress. Our intern wrangler, Michael Hamilton, decided to compare uses of the term "Cato Institute" to the names of other think tanks around town. Here's what he found:
Cato is mentioned roughly equally by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. It's hard to draw conclusions based solely on members' use of the names of think tanks, but it seems clear that Democrats and Republicans make roughly equal use of Cato research in making appeals to their colleagues and the public.
Note: The Brookings Institution is sometimes misstated as "Brookings Institute," so both are included.
Mike Leavitt is a Republican, a former Utah governor, a former Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, and now owns a firm called Leavitt Partners, which makes money by helping states implement ObamaCare's health insurance "exchanges" and take advantage of ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion. Let's stipulate from the outset that Leavitt and his staff are doing what they think is best for the nation. Still, as this article in yesterday's New York Times explores, it's odd that Mitt Romney chose as one of his top advisers a guy who's profiting from ObamaCare:
If Republicans in Congress agree on anything, it is their desire to eradicate President Obama’s health care law. But one of the top advisers to Mitt Romney, the party’s likely presidential nominee, has spent the last two years advising states and private insurers on how to comply with the law...
Mr. Romney has named Mr. Leavitt — a longtime friend, former governor of Utah and former federal health secretary — to plan the transition for what both hope will be a Romney administration.
Mr. Leavitt’s full-time job is running his consulting company, Leavitt Partners, which is based in Salt Lake City and has advised officials in Mississippi, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, among other states...
Michael F. Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, said: “It is strange to see Mr. Leavitt, a former Republican governor and former secretary of health and human services, helping and encouraging states to carry out this law for which Republicans have so much antipathy. It deepens suspicion as to whether Romney is sufficiently committed to repealing the Obama health care law.”
Twila Brase, president of the Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, a free market group that is mobilizing opposition to an exchange in Minnesota, said: “Mike Leavitt is an enabler of Obamacare. He has taken advantage of Obamacare to expand his own business, instead of helping governors resist a federal takeover of health care.”
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius has thrown nearly a billion dollars at states in a desperate attempt to bribe them into establishing Exchanges. We do not yet know how much of that cash has found its way to Leavitt Partners:
Natalie Gochnour, a spokeswoman for Leavitt Partners, said its work with states was only part of its business, but she refused to say how much the company had been paid for such work.
Perhaps some day we will, and "Leavitt" will become synonymous with "Solyndra."
Also, by my count the Times article devoted eight column-inches to such pro-Exchange nonsense as the idea that an ObamaCare Exchange could "run on free market principles" or Leavitt's claim that “continued inaction by states risks an Obama-style federal exchange being foisted upon a state.” Yet the Times cited no one who challenges those claims. I have no problem with the Times posing difficult questions to Romney. Why should ObamaCare get a pass?