Americans deserve an Obamacare watchdog
By Congressman Peter Roskam
In a recent victory lap, President Obama announced that more than 8 million Americans have signed up for Obamacare and so in his view, "the repeal debate is and should be over. The Affordable Care Act is working." But there are significant problems with the president’s assertions. The American people remain deeply unhappy about a law that has increased out-of-pocket healthcare costs for millions and taken away their choices. A recent Congressional investigation revealed that only 67 percent of individuals and families that selected a healthcare plan from the federal marketplace have paid their first month’s premium—laying waste to the 8 million figure the Administration has been touting.
The actual enrollment numbers have been closely hidden by the Administration for months, and were only obtained through inquiries directly to insurance companies, underscoring what has been a constant challenge for anyone trying to monitor the healthcare law’s progress: because the president’s legacy is so tied to the success of Obamacare, the Administration is hiding information, dissembling facts and changing the rules as they go, all in service of their own political needs. To get to the truth about the law and its implementation, I recently introduced legislation to create a Special Inspector General for Monitoring the Affordable Care Act, or SIGMA. An independent, nonpartisan Special Inspector General will offer Americans the complete picture of Obamacare, including what decisions are being made, how the law is performing and how it will impact American families. It will also shine light on the Administration’s repeated unilateral changes, missed deadlines and poor decision making that is resulting in so much confusion, difficulty and unexpected costs for families and small businesses.
Currently, no single oversight official has the power to get all the information about a law that is unprecedented in both size and scope. At over 900 pages, with thousands more pages of regulations, the massive healthcare law will impact one-sixth of our economy, and effect every American’s personal healthcare choices. SIGMA will have the authority to examine the entirety of the law, obtaining information from every one of the nine agencies and hundreds of new programs that play a role in Obamacare’s implementation. Through required quarterly reports and audits, SIGMA will report on every facet of Obamacare, offering a regular flow of information to the public and limiting the Administration’s ability to conceal and distort the true impacts of Obamacare.
When it comes to the cost to American taxpayers, Obamacare ranks as one of the most expensive federal programs in history. When fully implemented, experts project the law will cost up to $1.8 trillion, and yet there’s very little oversight of the billions flowing between agencies and out to the states and contractors, leaving the door wide open for criminal fraud and rampant government waste. A SIGMA would keep track of the money and prosecute those who abuse the system. Previous Special Inspectors General have long records of protecting taxpayer dollars and bringing accountability to government programs – giving us a glimpse of what SIGMA could accomplish with Obamacare. For the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a $700 billion taxpayer investment, SIGTARP produced $5.3 billion in restitution and savings led to 75 suspensions and debarments of federal contractors and employees and 112 criminal convictions. Similarly, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) identified more than $1.61 billion in savings through a series of audits and inspections.
A Special Inspector General would finally give the public a true accounting of the healthcare law, bringing much-needed transparency to a government program that is impacting millions of Americans. Armed with better information, the American people and policy makers can determine the best way to stop the worst parts of the law, and craft healthcare reforms that actually uphold the promise of quality, affordable healthcare.