Buried in the document’s appendices is a stunning statistic. Out of $5,509,074,183 in grants allocated to state-based exchanges, $1,453,766,433 was spent on actually building the IT infrastructure of Obamacare websites. More suspiciously still, nearly $2.4 billion was authorized for IT spending, and of the over $5.5 billion total, apparently only $3.2 billion was actually spent. However, despite the exchanges being $2.3 billion under budget, only a scant $300 million has been returned to the federal government so far.
A cynical observer might suggest that this money was never intended to be used for health care at all. Rather, it would seem that it went to Democratic governors as free money for them to shore up their coffers and pay them back for political support. Illegal? Unethical? Such concerns have never been worth much to an administration marked by the kind of Leftist political cynicism personified by President Obama’s administration.
But for the sake of argument, let’s give the states the benefit of the doubt, which brings us back to the obvious question: if only $300 million has been returned out of $2.3 billion that wasn’t spent at all, what happened to the other $2 billion? And if only $1.4 billion was spent of $2.4 billion authorized for IT spending, what happened to the other $1 billion of that?
Could this money have been spent on advertising for the state-based exchanges? One hopes not, considering the experience of Oregon.
Could it have been spent hiring staff to sign people up, either online or over the phone? If so, then why did sites crash and phone lines clog up under the weight of people trying to get coverage?
Could it have been spent getting people to enroll at all? Well, considering Hawaii signed up zero people while spending $200 million on its Obamacare special enrollment period, that would be quite the trick.
Was it used to help the poor afford better health care? Considering the deductibles many of them have to pay, the punchline almost writes itself.
Was it used on exchanges that worked at all? Well, Maryland spent more than the over $86 million it was allotted for IT, yet the exchange still went down in infamy for its failure. Oregon spent nearly all of its IT budget, yet its site fared even more hilariously poorly. Hawaii, meanwhile, spent nearly $90 million of its $120 million IT budget on a site that, again, signed up zero people.
In other words, the money that is accounted for seems to have been tossed down the drain, while the money that hasn’t been accounted for clearly can’t have gone to anything that would’ve made the exchanges work better, because nothing in their operation suggests that anything was spent to improve them at all. Where, then, did those phantom billions go, if not to what it was actually intended to do?
Fortunately, now that Congress has the aforementioned report in their hands, they can ask these sorts of questions of people such as President Obama’s acting head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Studies (CMS), Andy Slavitt. Slavitt needs to give the American people a precise accounting of what the states spent, and why they’ve only sent back $300 million, when they allegedly came in at least $2.3 billion under budget. Where is the extra money, and why hasn’t he demanded it back from the administration’s political allies?
These are not questions that Congress can shy away from, and they’re not questions that the Obama administration should be allowed to avoid. The math is there in cold black and white. Now it’s time to see whether Obamacare truly ended in the black, or if it’s only the ultimate black mark on this administration’s already corrupt record.