Roskam Exposes Unconstitutional Spending on Second Obamacare Program
WASHINGTON, DC—Last night, Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R-IL) went On the Record with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News to expose the Obama administration’s unconstitutional spending on the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Basic Health Program—a program projected to cost billions of dollars annually. At a Ways and Means hearing earlier this week, Roskam pressed Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell for answers on how the Administration is paying for the program when no funding authority has been provided by Congress.
Secretary Burwell argued in response that the Administration can fund the Basic Health Program under the Premium Tax Credit provisions of the ACA, which have a permanent appropriation. But the Basic Health Program is not a tax credit, and the law does not allow payments that are not specifically appropriated. Secretary Burwell said the authority comes from pp. 1046 and 1047 of the President’s Budget, but those pages don’t mention the Basic Health Program even one single time. This is the first revelation of a new, second Obamacare program for which the Administration is inappropriately making payments without the legal authority to do so. The first, with respect to Cost-Sharing Reduction Payments, is the subject of the House’s lawsuit against HHS.
The Basic Health Program, created under Section 1331 of the ACA, allows states to offer certain health plans and received payments from the federal government to cover 95% of the cost. Minnesota was the first state to implement the program, and received $60 million in taxpayer funds in its first month of operation in January 2015. New York plans to follow suit starting on January 1, 2016, and plans to receive $2.5 billion per year from the federal government to fund the program.
“So, here’s what’s going on. We’ve just learned that the Administration is paying out of a tax refund account non-appropriated money into something called a Basic Health Program, which was authorized by Obamacare to subsidize various health programs, but Congress never authorized any money for it. And we just learned within the past couple of weeks that the Administration has paid out $60 million to the state of Minnesota—and that’s just for one month. They’re just getting going. They’re expecting $600 million to Minnesota this year.”
“Yeah, apparently they’ve chosen to get their beaks wet by this. In other words, they’re using this account, there’s a projection now that the state of New York has anticipated getting $2.5 billion dollars. And here’s the point: I would argue this is unconstitutional and it’s illegal. There’s no authority that they have. And we had Secretary Burwell before the Ways and Means Committee yesterday. I posed this question to her and her answer was a bunch of razzle dazzle and nonsense. She was citing the President’s budget as authority to spend money, and I argue they don’t have this authority.”
“Well, it’s [IRS Commissioner Koskinen’s] problem and it’s her problem. It’s both of their problems. And when it all comes down to it it’s the President’s problem because he’s spending our money. And this becomes insidious and dangerous. Now, already there’s litigation as you know regarding the Cost-Sharing Reduction program. The House is seeking standing before the federal court and there’s a possibility that we’re going to prevail on that. This is a similar situation. This is spending money without the legal authority to do it. It is acting with impunity.”
“Here’s what we can do about it. First of all, I asked the Secretary to come in—and she’s agreed to come in—and say tell me your theory…we’re going to hear from her. Then, if her answer is unsatisfactory we’re into the appropriations process, and, as you know, Congress is right into this right now. And my office is drafting up amendments to deal with this—to make sure salaries are not paid to people who are misusing this money. Then the other thing is, is this the type of thing where you approach Speaker Boehner and say we ought to be expanding the litigation. Here’s another front for this litigation and we’re already prevailing.”
“There is a real problem here when administrations spend money that’s not appropriated and they’re just doing it with impunity.”