May 16 2014

Recouping ObamaCare Dollars

Patrice J. Lee

Someone is finally willing to fight for American taxpayers recouping the hundred of millions of dollars of wasted public funds on websites that don’t work. It’s the next Health and Human Services nominee Sylvia Matthews Burwell.

During a Senate confirmation hearing this week, leading Republican Senator Orrin Hatch asked Burwell about the mismanagement of ObamaCare as evidence by the failing state exchange websites. Burwell said that we need explanation of how the money was spent and to use the law to recoup those wasted dollars. She’s talking the talk, but if confirmed will she walk the walk?

It may be a little easier with Congressional back-up. Senator Hatch has co-sponsored a bill that forces states which abandon their ObamaCare exchange websites to repay all of the federal dollars that went into the failed projects.

The Daily Caller reports on Burwell’s comments:

“These states have received more than $1.25 billion to plan and build their exchanges. Now some of these states are looking for additional federal funds to continue their failed experimentation, at least in my view,” Hatch began. “Do you believe that these states that so negligently managed their funds should be required to reimburse the taxpayers for their incredible failures?”

“I think what I would say yes to is that we need to understand in where the federal government and the taxpayer has had funds misused, we need to use the full extent of the law to get those funds back for the taxpayer,” HHS nominee Sylvia Matthews Burwell replied.

Finally, someone is holding this Administration accountable for its failure to execute ObamaCare and the wasted taxpayer funds.

So far Oregon is the only state set to abandon its website and turn enrollment in its state exchange over to the federal government although Massachusetts is also weighing that option. If this measure passes I can foresee that it will actually be a deterrent for states to abandon their failed ObamaCare websites. Admitting failure is not only embarrassing but would mean forgoing unused funds and finding money to repay the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars they’ve already spent.

As we know too well now, central planning often fails because it lacks the critical local knowledge necessary to effectively address large scale problems. ObamaCare is a big demonstration of this. As smart as the architects of the un-Affordable Care Act thought they were, they could never anticipate or plan out the myriad aspects of such a broad, sweeping, complex new government program as government-run healthcare insurance.

While it was not the job of federal and state bureaucrats to execute the creation of marketplace exchanges, they were responsible for overseeing that technology contractors should deliver functioning products on timeline and on budget. They failed to that as did the federal officials like Burwell’s predecessor Kathleen Sebelius.

Taxpayers have every right to want back the wasted dollars spent and to see those with oversight responsibility held accountable.

A mea culpa from the President or Sebelius does little. A check from each state with a failed site –and from HHS– for the unused funds and the lost funds is the best “I’m sorry” we have yet to receive. It looks like we’re getting a little closer to that and it's about time.

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