FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
ObamaCare’s wasted millions
Politico tallies up the financial damage from four failed ObamaCare state exchanges, coming up with $474 million in taxpayer money for nothing:
Nearly half a billion dollars in federal money has been spent developing four state Obamacare exchanges that are now in shambles — and the final price tag for salvaging them may go sharply higher.
Each of the states — Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada and Maryland — embraced Obamacare, and each underperformed. All have come under scathing criticism and now face months of uncertainty as they rush to rebuild their systems or transition to the federal exchange.
I’ve seen some criticism that Politico’s $474 million figure is low, but judging from the article and its accompanying sidebar breakdown, I gather they’re counting only dollars irretrievably spent. In some cases, contracts for the room-temperature exchanges were halted before all of the federal taxpayer money had been thrown on the bonfire:
The $474 million spent by these four states includes the cost that officials have publicly detailed to date. It climbs further if states like Minnesota and Hawaii, which have suffered similarly dysfunctional exchanges, are added.
Their totals are just a fraction of the $4.698 billion that the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation calculates the federal government has approved for states since 2011 to help them determine whether to create their own exchanges and to assist in doing so. Still, the amount of money that now appears wasted is prompting calls for far greater accountability.
“Calls for far greater accountability?” What accountability has there ever been in any aspect of the ObamaCare boondoggle? Nobody’s been held to task for the titanic sums wasted on the federal exchange, which consumed hundreds of millions more in repair costs before it “worked” – a term that should be used loosely, since it’s still missing plenty of critical functions. The better part of a billion dollars got us to the point where users can log into HealthCareDotGov without it blowing up like Agent Smith after Neo dove into his breadbasket at the end of “The Matrix.”
A few heads have rolled here and there at the worst state exchange operations, but the big political operators are still in business… and still planning to shovel more of your tax money onto the bonfire of ObamaCare’s vanity:
Massachusetts’ dual-track approach could require more than $120 million on top of the $170 million it already has been awarded. That cost is nearly twice as much as if the state were to simply bail on its Connector, but officials seem to be banking in part on the Obama administration’s greater interest in helping the Massachusetts exchange — the once-pioneering model for Obamacare — survive.
Josh Archambault, a senior fellow with the right-leaning Foundation for Government Accountability, argued that the state’s efforts to salvage its exchange are just a face-saving exercise.
“Instead of a quixotic sprint to rebuild the whole site in five months, state officials should instead pivot quickly to utilize the federal exchange, saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in the process,” he said.
State officials have warned that most of what is left of their initial federal award may be needed to end their contract with CGI, the vendor that built the Connector. They acknowledged Thursday they have no guarantees of additional federal funding.
At this point, the political class is once again proving itself both useless and slippery, pointing fingers of blame at contractors while pretending state and federal officials were helpless victims of information-technology hucksters. Apparently those hucksters get around, because in addition to the four ObamaCare exchanges currently pushing up daisies, but Minnesota, Hawaii, and Nevada have uncertain futures. Given hundreds of millions of dollars and three years to develop functioning websites, very few quarters of America’s bloated government managed to deliver the goods.
But why worry? It’s not their money, after all. Government doesn’t go out of business when it utterly botches the rollout of a new “product.” It just siphons more money out of the private sector and rolls merrily on its way, crushing a few mid-level bureaucrats beneath its wheels.
This all seems like an awful lot of money to waste on a program that was peddled to the American people with a pack of lies, and which they’ve never stopped hating. Some states spent hundreds of dollars for each ObamaCare enrollment, with Hawaii topping the list at $920 a head. Yet another report analyzing the 7 million enrollments President Obama celebrated on April Fool’s Day has concluded that the vast majority of them – 74 percent – were Obama Big Lie victims who previously had coverage. Billions of dollars were spent annihilating their policies and forcing them into the exchanges so Obama could use them as statistics in a press conference.
Judged on the basis of money spent versus objectives achieved, ObamaCare is perhaps the worst “business model” you can find outside a totalitarian regime. It’s hard to imagine a plan to decrease the number of uninsured Americans that would have delivered less efficient results. But now we’ll be told to forget about even the most outrageously wasted millions – billions, if you include the federal exchange’s misadventures – because there’s nothing we can do about it now, and if we repeal ObamaCare, that money will be even more wasted. And if we dare to bring up the ObamaCare boondoggle when the next Big Government scheme bubbles out of Washington’s brainpan, we’ll be told we’re living in the past.
No hope, no change, no refunds.
Update: Phil Kerpen at The Federalist contacted Politico reporter Kyle Cheney and confirmed what I suspected about the relatively modest (but still horrifying) $474 million wasted on the defunct ObamaCare exchanges – Politico was very stringently counting only money “these states admit to having already spent, rather than the amount federal taxpayers have been forced to send to the states.” Kerpen criticizes that methodology at length in the Federalist article linked above, concluding that the pile of wasted money is likely to be $1.2 billion high by the time all is said and done.
Update: Here’s a great example of the ridiculous ObamaCare waste that should have Americans united in outrage: a Missouri contractor burning off millions of taxpayer dollars to pay an army of employees to sit around and do nothing at an ObamaCare “processing center.” Anonymous employees report they can go weeks without having a single application to process. And they’re still hiring more people.