Secretary Sibelius’ No Good, Horrible, Obamacare Day

Remember the days when Obamacare was supposed to be not only a neaty-keen-o plan to solve all our health care woes but also a means by which we would reduce the national debt by as much as $1.2 trillion dollars over the next twenty years?

That’s all news to the person who is running the program. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius. She testified before a Senate committee on the new national health care law this week and, in an exchange with Senator Ron Johnson (R – Wisc.), she admitted she really has no idea if Obamacare will save us money or cost us money. Well, that’s not all she admitted, but it was the first thing. We’ll get to the other ways she stumbled through Senator Johnson’s questions, but this is a good place to start. Here is a transcript of the exchange, from the Free Beacon:

“The bottom line here is, the cost of this healthcare law is so uncertain, don’t you think we ought to put the brakes on it?” Johnson asked. “You know, Nancy Pelosi said, ‘We have to pass this law to figure out what’s in it.’ What I don’t want to see is that we have to implement it to figure out how it’s going to bust a hole in our already horribly broken budget.”

SEBELIUS: The original estimate, yes.  I think that’s–

JOHNSON: Right. So, the original estimate for deficit reduction–

SEBELIUS: I’m assuming–

JOHNSON: The original estimate for deficit reduction in the first 10 years was $143 billion, correct?


JOHNSON: So now we, we’ve reduced that $143 billion by $86 billion – by not getting revenue from the CLASS Act – and now $111 billion because we’ve increased the mandatory costs of the exchanges, correct?

SEBELIUS: I’m assuming the numbers are correct.  I’m sorry I don’t have them.

JOHNSON: So, when you add those together, that’s $197 billion added to the first 10-year cost estimate of Obamacare, so now we are instead of saving $143 billion, we are adding $54 billion to our deficit, correct?


Things got worse from there. Johnson moved on to ask Sibelius about how much Obamacare will cost us, not in taxpayer money, but in direct insurance plan prices. Obamacare’s ability to lower the direct cost of health insurance coverage was another selling point for the President and the Democratic leadership in Congress. If health insurance becomes more expensive because we have essentially nationalized health care, that would be bad, especially in the worst economic recovery in recent memory.

Again, Sibelius was hazy on the details.

JOHNSON: We’ll submit that to the record. But, that’s basically true.  So instead of saving $143 billion, by this administration’s own figures and budget, we’re now adding $54 billion to our deficit in the first 10 years.  To me, that would be the first broken promise. It is true that the President said that by enacting this healthcare law, every family would save $2500 per year, in their family insurance plan – correct?

SEBELIUS: He said that once the exchanges are up and running, and you have an affordable marketplace, the insurance estimates were that the rates would go down by about $2500, yes– that has not occurred yet.

JOHNSON: The Kaiser Family Foundation has already released a study saying that average costs of family healthcare plans is up $2200, correct?

SEBELIUS: Again, there is no new marketplace yet for insurance policies.

Let’s do the math here. If the President’s prediction is accurate, and our rates all go down $2500, then we’ll only save about $300 a year because rates have already gone up an average of $2200. If rates go up farther before the much-ballyhooed exchanges drop into place, that $300 will evaporate like a fact in Secretary Sibelius’ testimony. Of course, she can’t say that. There is still a movement afoot among us responsible government types to repeal the whole of Obamacare and any honest admission that it’s going to cost us a whole lot more than advertised would only give us more ammunition. As it is, the public has never loved Obamacare. In fact, there has never been a point at which more people opposed its repeal than favored it.

Did I mention earlier that things got worse for Secretary Sibelius? Well, that wasn’t quite the end of it. Senator Johnson then asked Sibelius about the more than 1,200 waivers HHS has given various employers so that they can continue to offer their employees health insurance plans that will be illegal under Obamacare. Without those waivers, the employers would have to drop their coverage, thus breaking another Presidential promise. Those waivers are important, because they let the President keep a promise that was critical to getting Obamacare passed.

Too bad the Secretary doesn’t know about the waivers.

JOHNSON: It’s also true, that President Obama very famously said, ‘if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor.’  Period.  ‘If you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan.’  Period.  No one will take it away, no matter what. Now, we’ve granted quite a few waivers – about 1,200 to 1,700 waivers – on about 4 million Americans, correct?

SEBELIUS: I’ve no idea what waivers you’re talking about or–

JOHNSON: Well, those are waivers–

SEBELIUS: On doctors and health plans, is that…I–

JOHNSON: Just waivers from having to implement portions of the healthcare law that probably would have allowed those – or forced those workers – off their employer-sponsored care.

SEBELIUS: Again, I’d be happy to answer these questions, but I have no idea what waivers you’re talking about–

JOHNSON: The waivers that HHS has granted to employers not–

SEBELIUS: Which do what?

JOHNSON: Not having implemented sections of the healthcare law.

SEBELIUS: There have been waivers granted to employers, yes.

JOHNSON: And had those waivers not been granted, chances are, those employees probably would have lost their employer-sponsored care, correct?

SEBELIUS: I have no idea. I mean, I’m happy to answer those one at a time and look at the waivers and see what–

JOHNSON: Unfortunately, I’m pretty short on time.

Sibelius’ answers here boil down to, “Waiver? I don’t know anything about any waivers. Well, yeah, those wavers, sure. But I don’t know anything about them either”. That is an unacceptable answer from the person in whom the power to grant the wavers rests. She must know enough about them to answer basic questions. After all, her department has listed the waivers very prominently on its web site, and they’ve become quite the perk to groups who have supported the administration over the past three years.

So, to sum up, Secretary Sibelius doesn’t know how much Obamacare will cost, was completely unaware that it has already driven up the price of coverage, and may or may not know about the over 1,200 wavers her Department had given out to maintain the fiction that your coverage won’t change substantially once Obamacare fully goes into effect. At least that’s one way to interpret Sibelius’ answers to the Senator. The other way to look at it is that she knows full well what a fiscal and health-related train wreck Obamacare will be and she simply can’t tell us because if she does, we’ll repeal it so fast it’ll create a sonic boom in the Capitol building. In neither case are we Americans served well.

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