Republicans and Democrats are currently jockeying for position in the fight over this year’s federal budget. The two sides seem miles apart on spending cuts and other priorities.
But this year’s budget battle is only the beginning. Thanks to the new health care law, next year’s budget debate is shaping up to be a real battle royale.
In mid-February, President Obama released his 2011-2012 budget proposal, which would take effect this year on Oct. 1. Missing from that document was any accounting of the true cost of implementing ObamaCare.
“How many federal bureaucrats does it take to carry out President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul?” wrote the Associated Press. “Don’t expect to find an easy answer in his new budget.”
The president’s budget is so opaque that Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.–the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees Medicare and tax laws–has wondered whether Democrats are now trying to hide the costs of their signature piece of legislation.
In reality, the president and his congressional allies have obscured the costs of ObamaCare since the beginning.
In March of last year, for instance, just a few days before the health care bill became law, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) identified “at least $50 billion” in costs associated with implementing the law for which the “authority to undertake such spending is not provided.”
Just a few months later, the Congressional Research Service stated that the number of new federal bureaucracies created by the health care law was “unknowable.”
So the White House is either hiding the cost of implementation–or simply doesn’t know what that cost will be.
The few line items in the budget bearing the fingerprints of ObamaCare portend billions in expenses that have nothing to do with expanding access to care or making it more affordable.
For instance, in the 2011-2012 budget, the president has requested 1,270 new IRS agents to help implement the law. The agency will have to hire thousands more by 2014, when it will be tasked with making sure that all 300 million Americans comply with the law’s individual health insurance mandate.
The Department of Health and Human Services is also looking for some 4,700 new employees. Every single division of the HHS bureaucracy is set to grow.
In fact, The New York Times recently reported that to accommodate the large new bureaucracy tasked with regulating private health insurance, HHS just leased 70,000 feet of office space in Bethesda, Md., at double the market rate, wasting millions of tax dollars.
HHS’s department of Public Affairs–the agency that has run P.R. campaigns to sell the health care law to the public–is requesting a whopping 315% budget increase.
The agency’s salesmen will have their work cut out for them. The latest polls from Fox News, CBS News, and Newsweek show that Americans oppose ObamaCare by 17-, 18- and 19-point margins, respectively. Americans have made it clear they do not like this legislation. In an era of spiraling deficits, is it really worth spending millions on government propaganda to try to convince them otherwise?
The president’s biggest budgetary disaster may be the so-called “Doc Fix,” which delays scheduled cuts to Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors. Last year, Democrats hid about $208 billion in spending by not including the Doc Fix as part of the cost of the health care law.
Some $62 billion is included in Obama’s 2012 budget to pay for part of the Doc Fix. According to The New York Times, this will be paid for by “changes that squeeze Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals and doctors and expand the use of generic drugs.”
Many doctors have been squeezed so much by the feds that they’re no longer even seeing Medicare or Medicaid patients because they lose money on them. These proposed changes could make it even harder for seniors and the poor to find doctors–and drive up the price of care for everyone with private insurance.
President Obama promised the “most open and transparent [administration] ever.” Yet with his 2011-2012 budget proposal, he’s hidden much of the true cost of his health care reform package–or admitted that he has no idea what it will eventually be anyway.