GAO report details ObamaCare shakedown

There are many ways in which the Obama Administration benefits from a sycophantic media.  One of the biggest is the way media memory banks are flushed and rebooted every couple of months, preventing Americans (especially the fabled Low Information Voters, who pay only cursory attention to the news) from developing any sense of historical memory about what this Administration has done.  With a few exceptions so huge that they just wouldn’t fit in the Memory Hole – most notably Obama’s “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan” lie – everything happens in a vacuum where Obama and his agenda are concerned.  Every day is Day One of the Obama presidency.

This was especially evident when the media allowed Obama to take his absurd “victory lap” on April Fool’s Day, touting the alleged success of ObamaCare in reaching its 7 million enrollment target.  For one thing, the original enrollment target was double that amount; 7 million was the result of some hasty goalpost-moving after the Affordable Care Act was passed.  Also, the media didn’t ask (or invite its audience to ask) the most cursory questions about the number touted by Team Obama, such as how many of those “enrollments” were actually paid and valid insurance policies.

Crucially, the media’s aggressive shredding of inconvenient history kept it from putting ObamaCare’s enrollment “achievement” in any sort of larger context whatsoever.  The vast majority of those “enrollments” were people whose previously satisfactory health care plans were destroyed by ObamaCare; as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) put it, government agents busted their car windows, then other government agents came along to sell them new windows, while the President touted the success of the Department of Window Repair.  Also, the “success” of this operation relied heavily upon the little detail that failure to buy the product was against the law.  We sold 7 million units of a product people are legally required to purchase!  Yay!

And then you’ve got to consider the amount of money spent on advertising this product, which is absolutely staggering.  As the April 1 deadline approached, the Administration spent a lot of time whining about how people didn’t know about ObamaCare or understand how it works, with the unspoken assumption that they didn’t understand they would be required to pay a stiff fine if they didn’t buy a policy.  That “feature” of the plan had to be advertised very delicately, so as not to inflame public anger against the massively unpopular ACA, especially among young people.  But all of that public ignorance certainly wasn’t due to a lack of money spent on boosting ObamaCare.  Indeed, the Administration’s complaints were actually another indictment of its competence.  They spent $684 million of our tax dollars pushing ObamaCare at federal and state levels… but by the White House’s own admission, none of it mattered as much as President Obama’s desperate eleventh-hour pitch on a comedy website.

And even that gigantic expenditure wasn’t enough, because in one of those Administration scandals that seems to be constantly simmering on the back burner, outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius shook down the very industries she regulates for extra cash and resources to promote ObamaCare, funneled into one of those non-profit groups the IRS seems so keenly interested in… when they’re not Obama’s political allies, of course.

So while Tea Party and pro-life groups were getting dragged into spider holes and cocooned with red tape by the politicized Internal Revenue Service, Sebelius was making phone calls to corporations she had make-or-break regulatory power over, and encouraging them to slip some money to the Obama-allied nonprofit group Enroll America.  On Sunday, the New York Times reported on new details emerging from a government report on this unusual arrangement:

The Government Accountability Office provided new details on Sunday of how the Obama administration raised money from outside organizations to promote enrollment in health insurance under the health care law.

Republicans said such solicitations were meant to circumvent limits on government spending imposed by Congress. But in a report to Congress, the accountability office did not give a legal opinion on the propriety of the fund-raising. Administration officials said it was legal. Under federal law, they said, the secretary of health and human services can encourage support for nonprofits that promote public health.

And under ObamaCare, virtually everything that happens in America is now tied to “public health.”  The new ObamaCare-enriched iteration of Big Government has given itself nearly unlimited power to move resources between the State and its Little Partners in a large sector of the economy.  Give it a couple of years, and virtually any “request” the government makes of those Little Partners can be justified as a matter of “public health.”  It is becoming very difficult to tell where the State ends, and “private” industry begins.

Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, ???contacted the chief executive officers of five organizations to solicit support for one outside entity, Enroll America,??? which ran a national campaign to help people sign up for insurance, the report said. Ms. Sebelius has announcedthat she plans to leave her post.

Specifically, the report said, Ms. Sebelius ???requested financial support for Enroll America from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and H&R Block.??? She also requested ???nonfinancial support, such as technical assistance, from Ascension Health, Johnson & Johnson and Kaiser, which consists of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plans and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals.???

Interesting that Sebelius announced her retirement right before this report was released.  I can already hear the White House and its good friends in the media singing the “It’s Old News, Let’s More Forward, What Difference Does It Make?” chorus in unison.

It apparently wasn’t just the HHS secretary leaning on these corporations for “donations,” either:

Health and Human Services officials told investigators that they were not aware of any federal employees outside their agency who had solicited funds on behalf of Enroll America.

However, the report says a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation employee told investigators of a 2012 conversation in which a White House official ???indicated a hope that R.W.J.F. would provide a significant financial contribution to support??? Enroll America.

The report identifies the official as the deputy assistant to the president for health policy, but does not give her name, Jeanne M. Lambrew.

The foundation said the White House had estimated that groups like Enroll America would need $30 million. It said it had made grants to Enroll America totaling $13 million, but denied they were in response to the secretary???s call.

Well, of course they did.  Everyone knows how this game is played.  Speak up now, and something bad might happen to you.  It doesn’t have to take the form of mob-style leg-breaking threats to crush a business with regulations, or investigate a foundation into IRS oblivion, either.  A lot of these organizations are all-in on ObamaCare; no matter how badly it fails, they stand to lose enormous investments and income streams if it gets repealed, and they don’t care how much of the tab taxpayers are left holding.  Leaning on the Little Partners for outside money and in-kind assistance will get easier as the ObamaCare monster grows.  We’re up to two and a half trillion in spending on a program that was sold to taxpayers with a mere $900 billion price tag.  Nobody profiting from that gravy train will do anything to derail it, especially if they made big sacrifices to get it rolling.

It remains to be seen whether all of this will add up to any sort of prosecution, especially since Sebelius is riding off into the sunset after managing the greatest debacle in the history of the Internet.  Newsmax notes that Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), one of the senators who requested this GAO report, used to say the Sebelius shakedown was “arguable an even bigger issue” than Iran-Contra, but now the New York Times quotes him saying merely that he hopes Sebelius’ successor “will not ask the entities she regulates to support the president???s allies.”

It’s not corruption if the people who write (and re-write) the rules make it legal, right?  Let’s have another three cheers for a $2.5 trillion program that spent north of $700 million, some of it squeezed out of hyper-regulated industries by the woman who regulated them, in order to sign up a net 1.5 million uninsured Americans, under the threat of legal penalties if they refused the sales pitch.