Just in case you missed it in July and are coming late to the news: HHS announced three months ago that, for the next year, ObamaCare enrollees will be more or less on the honor system in reporting their income for subsidies purposes. If you make $50,000 and aren’t happy with the amount of subsidies you’re getting for your new insurance, good news — no one’s going to check too closely if you decide to pencil in $25,000 as your annual income instead. In other words, they’re trusting the public not to steal. The Healthcare.gov trainwreck and the one-year delay of the employer mandate have gotten plenty of ink but the fact that Obama’s basically inviting people to cheat for the next 12 months because his new health-care bureaucracy doesn’t have its act together well enough to police fraud is more revealing of the administration’s incompetence and corruption than either of those. And now, as an eleventh-hour negotiation demand, Senate Republicans are going to try to make him pay for it.
America 2013: Where the president’s willingness not to let people massively defraud his new health-care program is something to be bargained over. May the glorious Hopenchange legacy last a thousand years.
Now, Senate Republicans are putting another Obamacare measure on the table as part of negotiations to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling: Requiring the government to verify the eligibility of Obamacare applicants before they receive subsidies…
The No Subsidies Without Verification Act was passed by the House in September, but it has not been part of the shutdown showdown until now.
“Medicare and Medicaid are already fraught with fraud. I don’t think we want to start Obamacare even worse by not even attempting to verify incomes,” Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD. Johnson says he would like to see an end to Congress’s special treatment or the anti-fraud measure “attached to any increase to the debt ceiling or any continuing resolution agreement.”
Jay Cost writes in the Standard today that it’s time for the GOP to either fight or quit this whole shutdown business, as there’s simply no middle ground. I don’t know; this particular proposal feels like middle ground. Unlike the nascent House plan, it does demand that Obama concede something on ObamaCare that’s valuable to him — not a defunding or a delay but a provision which his Keystone Kops Healthcare.gov team might simply not yet have the manpower or sophistication to enforce. And yet how could he say no, especially if the anti-fraud demand becomes key to negotiations and reporters start paying attention to it? It’s politically radioactive for the president to insist on blocking anti-fraud measures when the whole country’s watching; and yet, if he agrees to it, the logistical load on an HHS bureaucracy that’s already struggling to keep the websites running might further bog the program down in delays and turn people against it. The messaging for the GOP couldn’t be easier. As John McCormack says, “A top concern Senator Ted Cruz is that too many people will become ‘addicted’ to Obamacare’s subsidies after January 1. Ensuring the subsides aren’t going to people who aren’t eligible is in the interest of those who hope to repeal Obamacare.” And in the interest of people who don’t care much about O-Care one way or another but do care lots about good government! If Obama’s dead set on letting people rip his program off, let him defend that at the White House podium.
One other virtue of the anti-fraud demand: It might steer the public’s focus away from the shutdown and back to the problems with ObamaCare itself. Per recent polls, voters are indeed a bit distracted from the car crash that is Healthcare.gov by all the wrangling on the Hill. And even those who aren’t find themselves less annoyed by ObamaCare’s issues when the government has shut down over them. From Republican-leaning pollster Resurgent Republic:
Unfortunately in the context of a government shutdown, Obamacare is the lesser of two evils.
Unlike previous trends, Independents look more like Democrats than Republicans when it comes to partially shutting down the government in order to right the wrongs of Obamacare. Three-quarters of Independents join 86 percent of Democrats in disapproving of this action, according to a CBS News survey. More noteworthy, Republicans are split: 48 percent approval to 49 percent disapproval.
By 59 to 38 percent, even those who oppose Obamacare believe a partial government shutdown is not the way to go. A government shutdown divides Republicans and flips the anti-Obamacare coalition, which is why the shutdown stopped revolving around the health care law several days ago.
If you’re going to proceed with a shutdown in the name of attacking O-Care, attacking it for the Obama administration’s insistence on letting new enrollees rip off taxpayers is more fertile ground politically than digging in for a repeal of the medical device tax, which is as much a giveaway to business interests as delaying the employer mandate was. The question is, will the Senate GOP insist on including it as a demand? The whole reason they’re floating their own plan is because they’re fed up with the stalemate between Democrats and Boehner. They’re wading in here as the “reasonable” Republicans who are going to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling for a year in the name of getting all of this off the table. That being so, how likely is it that they’re going to drop the anti-fraud bomb on Obama and make him start sweating? Exit quotation from Bob Corker: “I think that we will have a solution to this. … I’d be surprised if it goes all the way to the 17th. I think sometime mid-week this will all be resolved, if not sooner, candidly.”