HHS nominee promises to use 'full extent of the law' to recover Obamacare funds from states
Now let's hope she follows through.
At least a billion dollars in federal funds have gone to states with failed Obamacare exchanges. Health and Human Services nominee Sylvia Matthews Burwell promised that she would use every means at her disposal to recover "misspent" funds.
“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,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Wednesday in her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.
Burwell has broad support among Democrats and the backing of some prominent Republicans, such as Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John McCain of Arizona, both of whom testified on her behalf. Her confirmation seems all but locked up, although Republicans still used the hearing to express their continued opposition to the health care law.
Republicans quizzed Burwell on how many of the people who enrolled under the law had coverage before they signed up (she said she didn’t know); if she would commit to replying to future committee questions (she said she would); and whether it’s fair that some union plans are exempt from certain Obamacare payments (she said the move was a part of the administration’s effort to ease the law’s transition process).
But overall, the hearing lacked the intense furor that Republicans have aimed at the law for the past four years. Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said he attributed that, in part, to the “constructive” answers Burwell provided.
One of the most immediate challenges Burwell would face as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services is Obamacare’s second year of enrollment and the most troubled state exchanges. It’s unclear which state plans can be repaired before the next sign-up season begins in November.
At least four states that ran their own systems this year are either strongly considering giving up on their sites or have already decided to do so and move to the federal HealthCare.gov. Those states — Massachusetts, Oregon, Maryland and Nevada — have spent at least $474 million in federal funds on their exchanges.
Many millions more have been spent in other states where exchanges also are struggling.
“We have to understand what went wrong,” Burwell said of the broken state exchanges. “When we do understand … we need to go to the full extent to the law if there are contractors or others that have misled through their contracts or other things to fully recover.”
It's worrisome that she would go after contractors for the money. While there is no doubt some contractors acted incompetently - Cover Oregon, for example - it was in managing the project that bureaucrats and elected politicians dropped the ball. Of course, they will never blame themselves for the wasted money, but HHS should bill the states anyway simply because it's easier for the state to get money from the contractor than it would be for Washington.
We hope that the GAO would be looking into spending on these websites and come up with a tally of how much money was wasted. And not just for the 5 exchanges that may shut down, but all the monies spent at the state level to build these lemons.