Secretary Sebelius Admits to Double-Counting Budget Gimmicks in Health Care Law

March 3, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), today convened a hearing with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss the president's fiscal year 2012 budget requests and implementation of the health care law.  This was Secretary Sebelius' first time testifying before the subcommittee since the passage of the health care package.

"With the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), we have found there are several sections of this new law that require mandatory funding - hence, bypassing the normal appropriations process," said Pitts. "Today's hearing was critical to provide members the opportunity to examine these provisions and consider the budgetary implications for implementation and administration of this new law."

During the hearing, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) questioned whether the law's $500 billion in Medicare cuts were being used to sustain Medicare or fund the health care law.  Secretary Sebelius responded, "Both."

Click to watch video HERE.

"I was shocked to hear the Secretary admit that $500 billion is double counted in the health care law," said Shimkus. "We knew the health care law's actual cost was much greater than originally told to the public.  And now, the truth is slowly coming out in administration reports and testimony."

Pitts said, "As Rep. John Shimkus pointed out, to pay for Obamacare's new entitlements, more than $500 billion is taken out of Medicare. Meanwhile, the administration claims that these reductions are sustaining Medicare.  The same dollar can't be used twice. This is the largest of the many budget gimmicks Democrats used to claim Obamacare would reduce the deficit."

After a witness from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services yesterday failed to provide the subcommittee with an estimate on the amount of Medicare/Medicaid fraud, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) pushed Secretary Sebelius to provide an estimate. The secretary also replied, "We don't know."

Click to watch video HERE.

"It is distressing that HHS can't quantify the amount of fraud in Medicare and Medicaid.  Rather than stop the fraud, the administration pours more money into the system; overwhelming it and creating a bigger target for those who would defraud the taxpayer.  This is another example of an administration plan that sounds good until you press for details and discover there aren't any," Blackburn responded.

Members of the subcommittee also expressed concern regarding HHS' unprecedented power authorized in the health care law.

Click to watch video HERE.

"There is unprecedented power that goes to your office and unprecedented spending that goes to your office. These are decisions that are made exclusively by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. At no other time in our history has so much power gone to one federal agency," said Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX).

Chairman Pitts concluded, "The hearing left us with many more concerns than could be addressed during the limited time the secretary had to appear. Her department has handed out over 900 waivers to the law just to keep the current insurance system from collapsing. States are staring down billions of dollars in new Medicaid costs at a time of already tight budgets. The list of concerns with Obamacare is long and growing."

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