Investor’s Business Daily Editorial
Medicare: Backers like to say the more people know about ObamaCare, the more they’ll like it. So why is the administration spending $8.3 billion to hide a key provision from millions of seniors until after the election?
That’s precisely what administration officials are doing right now as a way to mask the effect of ObamaCare’s deep cuts to the popular Medicare Advantage program.
Championed by Republicans in 1997, Medicare Advantage offers seniors an escape valve from the creaky, government-run Medicare insurance program.
The idea was that private insurance companies could better manage costs than the government’s own top-down insurance plan, and give enrollees more and better benefits while still saving taxpayers money.
Medicare Advantage has proved popular with seniors, 12 million of whom have enrolled. But the left loathes it, arguing that Medicare overpays insurance companies, thereby ripping off taxpayers to enrich this industry.
Obama himself long complained about Medicare Advantage while running for office and while pitching ObamaCare.
In his 2009 health care speech to Congress, he said Medicare Advantage offered “unwarranted subsidies” that “do everything to pad (insurance company) profits and nothing to improve your care.” And he repeatedly vowed to “eliminate” these subsidies.
ObamaCare delivered — targeting Medicare Advantage for $145 billion in spending cuts over the next 10 years, equal to almost 30% of ObamaCare’s planned Medicare cuts.
Whatever merits to the claim that Medicare Advantage overpays insurers — there’s some evidence that this does happen — the fact is that ObamaCare’s payment cuts will, if left in place, drive many out of the Medicare Advantage business.
Medicare’s own actuary reported that ObamaCare would eventually force more than 7 million seniors off their private plans and back onto traditional Medicare as insurers flee the market.
Obama may not care that this violates his endlessly repeated promise that “if you like your health plan you can keep it.”
But somewhere along the way, someone in his administration realized that millions of seniors would soon catch on that he was lying — and that this would happen just before the November election, when seniors make their annual Medicare Advantage selections.
Not wanting to confront angry voters who’ve seen their health care choice eliminated by ObamaCare, the administration apparently decided instead to paper over these spending cuts, pumping $8.3 billion back into the program through “bonuses” to Medicare Advantage plans.
The administration’s lame excuse is that this is simply a “demonstration project” to see how the bonus money can be used to encourage the private plans to improve quality.
But the attempt to disguise its real purpose was so inept that it didn’t take the Government Accountability Office long to uncover the scam.
Among the glaring problems with this “experiment”:
• It’s seven times larger than any demonstration project Medicare has ever attempted.
• Almost all the bonus money is front-loaded. In fact, in the first year, the extra bonuses will fill in more than 70% of ObamaCare’s scheduled Medicare Advantage cuts. That will, conveniently, keep Medicare Advantage plans up and running through the election.
• For all the money, the so-called experiment was so poorly designed that it won’t produce any credible results.
The entire project is so transparently political that the normally reserved GAO urged the Health and Human Services Department to cancel it altogether.
Canceling is just the beginning. The bigger question lawmakers must answer is this: Can it really be legal for a Cabinet agency to spend $8.3 billion in taxpayer money simply to help Obama get re-elected?