Obama’s politicized HHS hides the pain of Medicare cuts until after the election
There is a mounting sense that Obama’s campaign team – which apparently includes the entire Cabinet – is using spit and string to hold a collapsing nation together until after the election. First we discovered the astonishing, and at least partly successful, effort to bribe and bully defense contractors into violating federal law by sitting on sequestration layoff notices until after the election, because nearly a million notices dropping into mailboxes a week before Election Day would look very bad for the President. The Administration actually promised contractors that taxpayers would cover the losses incurred during the inevitable billion-dollar lawsuit that would result.
Today Sean Higgins at the Washington Examiner reports on the efforts of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to keep the pain of ObamaCare’s cuts to Medicare Advantage hidden for just a little bit longer:
To pay for other parts of the law, Obamacare shifts about $216 billion over the next decade away from Medicare Advantage, a program that provides health coverage through private plans under contract with government. About a quarter of all Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in this program, which allows some services not covered under traditional Medicare. The shift of funds away from this program will result in fewer services, hike rates or both. That would have become apparent during Medicare’s open enrollment period, which begins this month — a few short weeks before an election.
Rather than let the president face seniors’ wrath over his cuts to Medicare Advantage right before the election, Sebelius amended an existing “demonstration project” that Obamacare established to pay bonuses to the most efficient Medicare Advantage plans. She changed this program so that it will now provide bonuses not just to the best, five-star rated plans, but also to middling ones with ratings as low as three stars.
This will offset 71 percent of the Medicare Advantage cuts in 2012. In short, Sebelius is hiding the pain in store for Medicare Advantage recipients until the election is over.
It’s hard to read this any other way. By rewarding mediocre plans, Sebelius is pretty much defeating the purpose of the demonstration project — to give plans incentives to improve. She is also stretching the definition of “demonstration project” to the breaking point. At $8.3 billion, this one costs more than the previous 85 demonstration projects combined, going back to 1995.
(Emphasis mine.) So, just as emergency sequestration measures designed to modestly control the growth of our national debt became a wealth transfer from taxpayers to trial lawyers, a program designed to improve the efficiency of Medicare Advantage becomes a slush fund to conceal the full horror of ObamaCare from seniors, who just happen to heavily populate a crucial swing state, and have a very high percentage of voter participation. The House Oversight Committee has demanded documentation from HHS about this decision, but they’re not likely to get anything before Election Day. Why should they? Laws are for the little people.