In Case You Missed It: Let's At Least Make Sure People Receiving Obamacare Subsidies are Eligible for Them
Let's At Least Makes Sure People Receiving Obamacare Subsidies are Eligible for Them
By Congressman Diane Black
Published June 12, 2014
Consider that after all of the President’s unilateral changes to his signature law, Obamacare, we have now reached the point where the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cannot even calculate what fiscal impact this law will have on our nation’s deficits. In addition, while the individual mandate that all Americans purchase health insurance or be penalized has been described as “central” to the law’s implementation, the estimate for the amount of people who will be subjected to this tax has been slashed by a third because of enrollment exemptions given by this Administration.
Now reports from the Washington Post and the Associated Press confirm one of my biggest concerns with the implementation of this boondoggle. More than one million Americans who signed up for healthcare on the federal exchange may be receiving an incorrect tax payer subsidy for their plans due to the fact that the Obama Administration pushed this law through before the systems were in place to accurately confirm eligibility. This isn’t mere incompetence on the part of the White House; no, this was a direct result of the Administration’s insistence on moving forward with their arbitrary October 1st, 2013 open enrollment date, regardless of the consequences.
Consider the problem this presents, as there is currently no real time system in place to ensure only those who qualify for subsidies receive them. This means that hard working American taxpayers may be left on the hook for potentially billions in fraudulent subsidy payments. Furthermore, it means that someone who simply fills out their Obamacare enrollment application incorrectly could be hounded for years by the Internal Revenue Service for back taxes owed on improper payments.
This problem was entirely preventable, and that’s why, in the wake of a clandestine holiday rules change that delayed income verification provisions in Obamacare last summer, I introduced legislation that would have prevented any Obamacare subsidies from being doled out until a system was in place to make sure that only those determined eligible would receive them. The House acted on this legislation, passing it in a bipartisan vote last September to help protect American taxpayers from rampant fraud and abuse.
Unfortunately, instead of giving my bill the consideration it deserved, the Senate stripped the verification provision contained in the bill and replaced it with language requiring a mere report to Congress by Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at the end of last year, certifying that there is a system in place to verify incomes before subsidies are paid out.
Predictably, this weakened income verification language has failed, as we now learn from news reports – not the White House – that over a million Americans are potentially receiving an amount in error. That is why I have now introduced H.R. 4805, the No Subsidies Without Verification Act of 2014. The tax credits and cost-sharing assistance for Obamacare premiums administered by HHS is estimated to amount to a staggering $10 billion per month, making this one of the largest entitlement programs in the nation. H.R. 4805 would simply require an income verification system to be put in place before any additional taxpayer subsidies are given out.
Even if one were to ignore the millions of Americans who have lost their insurance plans, their doctors and hospitals, and who are struggling to manage spiking premiums, Obamacare is a complete disaster whose costs cannot even be calculated by the CBO, Congress’ neutral score keeper. Implementation of the law has become so embarrassing to this Administration that HHS has even decided to stop administering monthly enrollment reports. My commonsense legislation would simply slow the bleeding this law is having on American taxpayers, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to move it forward.
Diane Black is the U.S. Representative for Tennessee’s 6th congressional district. She is a member of the House Budget Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.\
Click here to read Congressman Black’s op-ed on Forbes.com.
Congressman Diane Black represents Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District. She has been a registered nurse for more than 40 years and serves on the House Ways and Means and Budget Committees.