Obama’s $8 billion trick? Campaigning with your tax dollars

The administration is temporarily restoring funds to Medicare Advantage so seniors don’t lose coverage before the election.

Benjamin E. Sasse & Charles Hurt
The New York Post
4/23/2012

Call it President Obama’s Committee for the Re-Election of the President — a political slush fund at the Health and Human Services Department.

Only this isn’t some little fund from shadowy private sources; this is taxpayer money, redirected to help Obama win another term. A massive amount of it, too — $8.3 billion. Yes, that’s billion, with a B.

Here is how it works.

The most oppressive aspects of the ObamaCare law don’t kick in until after the 2012 election, when the president will no longer be answerable to voters. More “flexibility,” he recently explained to the Russians.

But certain voters would surely notice one highly painful part of the law before then — namely, the way it guts the popular Medicare Advantage program…

…This political ticking time bomb could become the biggest “October Surprise” in US political history.

But the administration’s devised a way to postpone the pain one more year, getting Obama past his last election; it plans to spend $8 billion to temporarily restore Medicare Advantage funds so that seniors in key markets don’t lose their trusted insurance program in the middle of Obama’s re-election bid.

The money is to come from funds that Health and Human Services is allowed to use for “demonstration projects.” But to make it legal, HHS has to pretend that it’s doing an “experiment” to study the effect of this money on the insurance market.

That is, to “study” what happens when the government doesn’t change anything but merely continues a program that’s been going on for years.

Obama can temporarily prop up Medicare Advantage long enough to get re-elected by exploiting an obscure bit of federal law. Under a 1967 statute, the HHS secretary can spend money without specific approval by Congress on “experiments” directly aimed at “increasing the efficiency and economy of health services.”…

Read the complete article at The New York Post.

Update: Say Anything has more.

Update 2Barney Frank Makes a Misdiagnosis on Obamacare

Representative Barney Frank, who is not seeking re-election, gave a memorable exit interview this week to New York magazine suggesting that President Barack Obama “underestimated, as did Clinton, the sensitivity of people to what they see as an effort to make them share the health care with poor people.”

The Democratic Party “paid a terrible price for health care,” Frank said. “I would not have pushed it as hard.” …

…Frank is mistaken that the White House underestimated the political price. At various points, Vice President Joe Biden, senior advisor David Axelrod and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel advised the president to focus entirely on the economy and leave comprehensive health care for another day. “I begged him not to do this,” Emanuel told me when I was researching my book about Obama’s first year in office…

Read the whole thing.

Update 2:  On the other hand, Are You a Brain-Dead Lib Who Can’t Get Enough Bawney Fwank? If So Then You’re In Luck! Wants To Do Regular TV Appearances Once His Final Term Ends… from Weasel Zippers, of course.

Update 3: Gov’t auditors call on Obama administration to cancel Medicare bonuses GOP sees as political

In a blow to the Obama administration on Medicare, government auditors Monday called for the cancellation of a costly bonus program for private health plans that congressional Republicans have criticized as a wasteful political ploy.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said it’s not clear that the $8.3 billion Medicare Advantage bonus program will improve quality because most of the money is going to plans just rated average. The auditors did find, however, that the bonuses would temporarily ease the pain of unpopular cuts to insurance plans under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law.

Ahead of presidential and congressional elections in which seniors are a key group of swing voters, the administration has been working hard to portray itself as a good steward of Medicare, by cracking down on waste and fraud, improving benefits, and keeping costs under control. The GAO report could become a blemish on its record.

The administration defended the program, saying without bonuses many plans would not have an incentive to improve.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the GAO report suggests that the administration abused its authority, pumping money to the plans to avoid more criticism over the cuts…

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