Wednesday, September 21, 2011

ObamaCare's Political Prevarication .... What's New?

Our political leaders are held in low esteem, if not contempt, by many citizens. Unfortunately, the politicians continue to offer plenty of ongoing examples as to why we should not tend to believe what they tell us.

They sure don't follow the tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth code of conduct. Not even close.

Many people expressed appropriate disbelief at the politically advertised cost savings attached to the enactment of ObamaCare at its inception. Although the legislation was billed by its proponents as being able to add another 30+ million people to health care coverage while saving taxpayers money at the same time, that seemed too good to be true. In fact, it looked like a lie at the time. It still does.

Now we have concrete evidence that truth telling was not exactly what the politicians had in mind when they were trying to "sell" citizens on the virtues of what they dubbed the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010."

In making their "affordable" cost savings case, a few untruths apparently needed to be told to the people. But what did a few untruths matter when their much desired national health care legislation and re-election efforts were at stake?

In other words, there's really not much new here about the way things are all too often done in Washington.

That said, it's still somewhat sickening to behold when such a disregard for the people's right to be told the truth rises to the surface. Accordingly, let's look at the story of the ObamaCare "Class" program.

GOP Vets an ObamaCare Program tells the story of how political games are played in Washington. Since the article is brief, it's worth quoting in its entirety:

"The Solyndra solar subsidy flare-up is getting all the media attention, but arguably as great a White House scandal concerns one of ObamaCare's multiple new entitlements. A trove of internal emails uncovered by congressional investigators shows that administration officials knew that a new program for long-term care really was the fiscal disaster that critics claimed at the time.

Known by the acronym Class, the government-backstopped insurance for nursing homes, home health aides and the like was among the worst accounting gimmicks used to make it seem as if national health care would reduce the deficit. The voluntary Class program will collect premiums upfront next year but won't pay out benefits for another five years. The $70 billion accumulated during that lead time will finance other parts of ObamaCare, and then the Class program goes broke somewhere around 2020 and starts to drain taxpayers in part because the same money can't be spent twice.

The emails, obtained by a joint Republican panel led by Sen. John Thune and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, reveal that the administration knew the program was designed to fail and went ahead anyway. A Health and Human Services deputy secretary repeatedly warned his superiors and Democratic staff on the Hill that the Class program "seems like a recipe for disaster to me." Later, he even suggested that Democrats include a "failsafe" for public support.

Chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster, who has been a hero of fiscal honesty during the health-care debate, also warned that "adverse selection" could be "a terminal problem for this proposal" as early as May 2009, nearly a year before the bill passed. Because of the way Class is structured, healthy people are unlikely to buy in and premiums for the remaining sick will spike, leading to a classic insurance "death spiral."

"Thirty-six years of actuarial experience," Mr. Foster wrote to the Medicare legislative affairs office, "lead me to believe that this program would collapse in short order and require significant federal subsidies to continue." He later wrote that "I assume you've conveyed these concerns to the staff but, if not, let me know and we can express these concerns in a memo."

A Senate committee staffer "decided she does not think she needs additional work on the actuarial side," an HHS email later reported back. Of course not."

And that's the simple story of "Class" affordability and a clear example of how the use of the word "Affordable" is a misnomer when describing ObamaCare.

President Obama and Democratic leadership were the contemptible players this time, but they're not alone. Republicans tend to do the same kind of things when they're in charge.

Time after time future American taxpayers are taken for granted when it comes to legislation and government spending. MOM is in absentia and OPM is very much alive and well in Washington. Why does this happen?

My view is that it's simple time inconsistent gamemanship. When the real bill finally comes due, the politicians will likely have either served their terms or moved on to other legislative and political concerns. So will the people. As a result, the politicians are never held accountable by the taxpayers.

Making things worse, the taxpayers at the time the legislation is enacted often enjoy the benefits of the lies. It's often the future taxpayers that get the bill.

How long has this game been played? At least since Social Security was passed in the 1930s. Congress passes legislation and doesn't make provisions to pay for its full costs over time.

To the contrary, they deem it to be very much "affordable" at the time it's adopted and promote it just that way to the taxpayers and other concerned citizens.

Post-audits are never conducted to see if what we thought would happen financially did in fact happen. There is simply no accountability with respect to political promises made equating to political promises kept.

Then as time goes on, the "unexpected and unpredicted" costs mount. In the meantime, however, people have become accustomed to the received benefits or entitlements. It's only the future taxpayers who will pay the full bill. This Washingtonian custom and practice has been a way of life with social security, medicare, medicaid and many other entitlement programs, too.

Our politically inspired deficit ridden debt accumulating gamesmanship has been going on for far too long, and its continuation will be entirely unfair to future generations.

But there's a simple solution at hand if we can muster the political willpower. If actual costs later exceed initial projections, which they invariably have, there would be an iron clad rule that after a trial period, either the benefit is immediately reduced or increased taxes are immediately implemented.

It would be very simple to do, and it sure isn't the way things are done now, nor have been done for a very long time.

Maybe it's time for a much needed change in our political discourse. Perhaps our politicians could even be held accountable for not telling the truth. Let's hope so.

Thanks. Bob.

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