The Actuary Speaks…

The Prowler at The American Spectator:

The economic report released last week by Health and Human Services, which indicated that President Barack Obama’s health care “reform” law would actually increase the cost of health care and impose higher costs on consumers, had been submitted to the office of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius more than a week before the Congressional votes on the bill, according to career HHS sources, who added that Sebelius’s staff refused to review the document before the vote was taken.

“The reason we were given was that they did not want to influence the vote,” says an HHS source. “Which is actually the point of having a review like this, you would think.”

The analysis, performed by Medicare’s Office of the Actuary, which in the past has been identified as a “nonpolitical” office, set off alarm bells when submitted. “We know a copy was sent to the White House via their legislative affairs staff,” says the HHS staffer, “and there were a number of meetings here almost right after the analysis was submitted to the secretary’s office. Everyone went into lockdown, and people here were too scared to go public with the report.”

In the end, the report was released several weeks after the vote — the review by the secretary’s office reportedly took less than three days — and bore a note that the analysis was not the official position of the Obama administration.

Jim Hoft at Big Government:

More hope and change–

A damning health care report generated by actuaries at the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department was given to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius more than a week before the health care vote. She hid the report from the public until a month after democrats rammed their nationalized health care bill through Congress.

The results from the report were troubling. The report released by Medicare and Medicaid actuaries shows that medical costs will skyrocket rising $389 billion 10 years. 14 million will lose their employer-based coverage. Millions of Americans will be left without insurance. And, millions more may be dumped into the already overwhelmed Medicaid system. 4 million American families will be hit with tax penalties under this new law.

Of course, these were ALL things that President Obama and Democratic leaders assured us would not happen.

Ed Morrissey:

If the Obama administration had this information before the vote — and it should be noted that this comes from a single, anonymous source — then it deliberately misled Congress on the cost estimates.  That may not be a crime, but it’s highly unethical at the least, and makes Barack Obama’s claims to operate with transparency absolutely laughable, if true.  As the Prowler’s source points out, the entire reason CMS provided an analysis was to ensure that everyone knew the ramifications of passing this legislation.  Deliberately withholding it would have stripped Congress of that transparency, if that’s indeed what happened.

A Congress interested in maintaining the separation of powers under the Constitution would consider that an affront.  Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of Congress we have at the moment.  A credible inquiry into what the White House knew about the CMS actuarial analysis and when they knew it will require a much different Congress in 2011 … which the voters have an opportunity to provide in November.

UpdateYid with Lid tips me that the director of the CMS, Richard Forster, has denied this report, according to Fox News.

Update II: Forster denies the report in an interview with Jake Tapper at ABC as well.

Daniel Foster at The Corner

Meredith Jessup at Townhall

Mike Murray at MSNBC:

A little back story: While the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the health-care legislation (Senate bill, plus reconciliation bill) would reduce the deficit by $138 billion over 10 years and $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, the Office of the Actuary at HHS said last week that the new health-care law would raise health costs $311 billion from 2010 to 2019.

But after some digging, it’s pretty clear that the Spectator report isn’t accurate.

1. The Office of the Actuary didn’t receive the language of the reconciliation bill until March 18 (when the legislation was posted), so the Spectator’s assertion that HHS had a copy of the Actuary’s score a week before congressional passage — on March 22 — doesn’t make sense.

2. Past scores from the Office of the Actuary came out AFTER passage of the legislation. For the House bill that passed on Nov. 7, 2009, the Actuary’s score came out on Nov. 13. And for the Senate bill that passed on Dec. 24, 2009, the Actuary’s score came out on Jan. 8, 2010. This most recent Actuary report is dated April 22.

3. Given points #1 and #2, it’s hard to see how the Actuary’s score was available before the CBO’s, which came out on March 18.

David Weigel:

But HHS tells me that the story isn’t true.

“If this issue hadn’t consumed my entire day so far,” said Richard S. Foster, chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, “I would have found it fairly amusing.” The article, he said, was “completely inaccurate.”

“We began working on the reconciliation bill for the health reform legislation once it was publicly issued on March 18 – three days before the House vote took place on March 21,” said Foster. “Because of the details and complexity of the legislation, it wasn’t possible to estimate the package before the Senate vote.

“We began work on the estimates right away, but we didn’t finalize them until the afternoon of April 22. We finished our memorandum on the health reform act later that same day and immediately sent it to those individuals and organizations that had requested it, including Congressional staff, HHS staff, and media representatives. Consistent with the Office of the Actuary’s longstanding independent role on behalf of Congress, we did not seek approval or clearance from HHS (or anyone else) before issuing our analysis.”

Ben Smith at Politico:

Foster backs up that reporting, and his denial carries a good deal of weight: He’s an independent figure who testified, damagingly, in 2004 that the Bush Administration had — in not dissimilar circumstances — delayed the publication of a report on the cost of the Medicare prescription drug plan; last year, he delivered a report on Medicare cuts that sharply challenged the Obama Administration’s claims that they were holding senior citizens harmless in health care legislation.

Foster emailed, through a spokesman:

An online article in The American Spectator about the most recent analysis by the CMS Office of the Actuary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is completely inaccurate. We began working on the reconciliation bill for the health reform legislation once it was publicly issued on March 18 – three days before the House vote took place on March 21. Because of the details and complexity of the legislation, it wasn’t possible to estimate the package before the Senate vote. We began work on the estimates right away, but we didn’t finalize them until the afternoon of April 22. We finished our memorandum on the health reform act later that same day and immediately sent it to those individuals and organizations that had requested it, including Congressional staff, HHS staff, and media representatives.
Consistent with the Office of the Actuary’s longstanding independent role on behalf of Congress, we did not seek approval or clearance from HHS (or anyone else) before issuing our analysis.

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