The Obama administration’s top spokesperson on health care was unable to defend the president’s health overhaul law during a Senate hearing yesterday when she was confronted with the facts about a string of promises that already have been broken about law.
Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was clearly flummoxed by a series of fact-based questions asked by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on March 7.
Sen. Johnson clearly knew much more about the health law and its impact than this Obama administration official who is in charge of implementing it. During his questioning, Sen. Johnson clicked off a number of the president’s promises about the law, including claims it would reduce the deficit, cut health costs, and allow people to keep their coverage and their doctors.
Sen. Johnson took apart the promises, one by one:
Reducing the deficit. “Instead of saving $143 billion, we are adding $54 billion to our deficit, correct?” Johnson asked, breaking down the numbers. The Secretary didn’t dispute. Broken promise number one.
Health costs rising. Johnson continued: “It is true that the President said that by enacting this healthcare law, every family would save $2,500 per year, in their family insurance plan — correct?… The Kaiser Family Foundation has already released a study saying that average costs of family healthcare plans is up $2,200, correct?” Sec. Sebelius said the exchanges aren’t in place yet so there are no ObamaCare savings. “We’re already different by $4,700; it’s going to be hard to get us down to $2,500 cost savings. I would consider that broken promise number two,” Johnson said.
Employers dropping coverage. Sen. Johnson cited a McKinsey & Company study that estimated 30 to 50 percent of employers would drop their employee coverage once the new law is fully implemented, and he said that adding so many more people to taxpayer-subsidized coverage would add hundreds of billions of dollars, if not trillions, to the federal deficit.
Sec. Sebelius could not say how many employers would drop coverage, but used Massachusetts as an example that the lost coverage didn’t happen. Sen. Johnson quickly dismissed that defense with a specific explanation of how the incentives in the federal law are significantly stronger for employers to drop coverage. Broken promise number three.
Waivers. “Now, you’ve granted quite a few waivers — about 1,200 to 1,700 waivers — on about 4 million Americans, correct?” Johnson said. “I’ve no idea what waivers you’re talking about,” Sebelius replied. She continued to have a hard time understanding that he meant the waivers granted to select employers, disproportionately labor unions, to protect them temporarily from early provisions of ObamaCare.
“The bottom line here is, the cost of this healthcare law is so uncertain, don’t you think we ought to put the brakes on it?” Johnson asked. “You know, Nancy Pelosi said, ‘We have to pass this law to figure out what’s in it.’ What I don’t want to see is that we have to implement it to figure out how it’s going to bust a hole in our already horribly broken budget.”
He could not be more correct. The administration is left sputtering when confronted with the actual facts about the impact of the health overhaul law. Putting on the brakes is a first step to repealing the whole law.
This partial transcript is very much worth a few minutes of your time.
SEBELIUS: The original estimate, yes. I think that’s—
JOHNSON: Right. So, the original estimate for deficit reduction—
SEBELIUS: I’m assuming—
JOHNSON: The original estimate for deficit reduction in the first 10 years was $143 billion, correct?
JOHNSON: So now we, we’ve reduced that $143 billion by $86 billion — by not getting revenue from the CLASS Act — and now $111 billion because we’ve increased the mandatory costs of the exchanges, correct?
SEBELIUS: I’m assuming the numbers are correct. I’m sorry I don’t have them.
JOHNSON: So, when you add those together, that’s $197 billion added to the first 10-year cost estimate of Obamacare, so now we are instead of saving $143 billion, we are adding $54 billion to our deficit, correct?
SEBELIUS: Sir I —
JOHNSON: We’ll submit that to the record. But, that’s basically true. So instead of saving $143 billion, by this administration’s own figures and budget, we’re now adding $54 billion to our deficit in the first 10 years. To me, that would be the first broken promise. It is true that the President said that by enacting this healthcare law, every family would save $2500 per year, in their family insurance plan — correct?
SEBELIUS: He said that once the exchanges are up and running, and you have an affordable marketplace, the insurance estimates were that the rates would go down by about $2500, yes— that has not occurred yet.
JOHNSON: The Kaiser Family Foundation has already released a study saying that average costs of family healthcare plans is up $2200, correct?
SEBELIUS: Again, there is no new marketplace yet for insurance policies.
JOHNSON: But the costs are already up. We’re already different by $4700; it’s going to be hard to get us down to $2500 cost savings. I would consider that broken promise number two.
It’s also true, that President Obama very famously said, ‘if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan. Period. No one will take it away, no matter what.’ Now, you’ve granted quite a few waivers — about 1,200 to 1,700 waivers — on about 4 million Americans, correct?
SEBELIUS: I’ve no idea what waivers you’re talking about or—
JOHNSON: Well, those are waivers—
SEBELIUS: On doctors and health plans, is that…I—
JOHNSON: Just waivers from having to implement portions of the healthcare law that probably would have allowed those — or forced those workers — off their employer-sponsored care.
SEBELIUS: Again, I’d be happy to answer these questions, but I have no idea what waivers you’re talking about—
JOHNSON: The waivers that HHS has granted to employers not—
SEBELIUS: Which do what?
JOHNSON: Not having implemented sections of the healthcare law.
SEBELIUS: There have been waivers granted to employers, yes.
JOHNSON: And had those waivers not been granted, chances are, those employees probably would have lost their employer-sponsored care, correct?
SEBELIUS: I have no idea. I mean, I’m happy to answer those one at a time and look at the waivers and see what—
JOHNSON: Unfortunately, I’m pretty short on time.