HHS spending like there's no tomorrow on Obamacare

They may be right. SCOTUS may rule as early as Monday on the constitutionality of the mandate and the entire legislation.


Conservatives wanted the White House to stop spending on the health care law until the Supreme Court rules on whether it's constitutional.

But the administration has forged ahead, spending at least $2.7 billion since oral arguments in the case ended on March 28. That's more than double the amount that was handed out in the three-month period leading up to the arguments, according to a POLITICO review of funding announcements from the Department of Health and Human Services.

While much - if not all - of this funding was in the pipeline well before March, the timeline for handing out specific funds is not set in stone, which gives the agency leeway over the kinds of dollars it has been handing out.

(Also on POLITICO: States set to move on Medicaid)

And the stakes have increased as the date of a Supreme Court ruling approaches, because money that is spent won't have to be repaid, most likely. But remaining funds will dry up if the court strikes down the law.

The court is expected to announce its decision next week.

The $2.7 billion includes grants and awards that have been handed out since the Supreme Court arguments - including more than $90 million in funds for health insurance cooperatives that HHS announced Friday afternoon.

By contrast, the administration gave out about $1 billion in grants, loans and other awards during the three months before the Supreme Court arguments.

An HHS spokesperson strongly disputed the idea that there was any change in the timeline because of the court.

"This story is flat-out wrong. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act more than two years ago, we have worked continuously to implement the law and to educate the American people about the benefits," the spokesperson said. "The premise of the story does not take into account the timeline of implementation."

HHS is being disingenuous. They know as well as we do that the justices read the newspapers as closely as anyone. The sudden increase in spending is a gambit - an appeal to the practical side of the justices who may see spending billions on a government program as a good reason not to strike down the entire law.

SCOTUS may not do that anyway. But HHS is pulling out all the stops to convince the court that fooling with Obamacare would be an expensive proposition.