Friday, April 1, 2011

Uncovered: New $2 billion bailout in Obamacare - Unions Again

Well, we are finally getting to read the bill and find another bailout for the states and unions. I don't know about you, but I wasn't entitled to retire with a pension at age 54. I'm so happy, as I know you are, to be able to pay these "workers" their inflated pensions through our taxes. It is also good to know that our friends, the progressive/liberal/Democrats, were looking out for their donor base and were able to ram the bill through in the dead of night.

Investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee have discovered that a little-known provision in the national health care law has allowed the federal government to pay nearly $2 billion to unions, state public employee systems, and big corporations to subsidize health coverage costs for early retirees. At the current rate of payment, the $5 billion appropriated for the program could be exhausted well before it is set to expire.

The discovery came on the eve of an oversight hearing focused on the workings of an obscure agency known as CCIO -- the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. CCIO, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, oversees the implementation of Section 1102 of the Affordable Care Act, which created something called the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program. The legislation called for the program to spend a total of $5 billion, beginning in June 2010 -- shortly after Obamacare was passed -- and ending on January 1, 2014, as the system of national health care exchanges was scheduled to go into effect.

The idea was to subsidize unions, states, and companies that had made commitments to provide health insurance for workers who retired early -- between the ages of 55 and 64, before they were eligible for Medicare. According to a new report prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services, "People in the early retiree age group…often face difficulties obtaining insurance in the individual market because of age or chronic conditions that make coverage unaffordable or inaccessible." As a result, fewer and fewer organizations have been offering coverage to early retirees; the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program was designed to subsidize such coverage until the creation of Obamacare's health-care exchanges.

But payments to individual states were dwarfed by the payout to the auto workers union, which received more than the states of New York, California, and Texas combined. Other unions also received government funds, including the United Food and Commercial Workers, the United Mine Workers, and the Teamsters.

Republican investigators count the early-retiree program among those that would never have become law had Democrats allowed more scrutiny of Obamacare at the time it was pushed through the House and Senate. Since then, Republicans have kept an eye on the program but were not able to pry any information out of the administration until after the GOP won control of the House last November. Now, finally, they are learning what's going on.

Read full Byron York column here.

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