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  • Secretary Sebelius Questioned Before the Senate Finance Committee

    Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified in front of the Senate Finance Committee yesterday about the President’s 2012 fiscal year budget and the status of health care reform. Despite the projected $1.6 trillion deficit in the President’s budget, Sebelius claimed that it represents “the blueprint for putting (President Obama’s) vision into action and making the investments that will grow our economy and create jobs.” Here are some of the noteworthy exchanges the Secretary had with Senators on the committee.

    Senator Max Baucus (D–MT) lauded the Medicare “doc fix” in the budget, although he expressed a desire for a permanent fix. The doc fix in the budget is a two-year fix paid with spending offsets. However, as Bob Moffit and Kate Nix point out, the temporary fix is paid for with spending offsets far in the future, indicating that the President is once again punting difficult decisions.

    Many Senators expressed concern over the maintenance of effort provisions for Medicaid eligibility contained in Obamacare. Senator Tom Coburn (R–OK) pressed Sebelius on the possibility of block granting Medicaid and removing the rules imposed on states. The Secretary pressed back with an insistence that states already have flexibility to manage their populations that they are not taking advantage of. But her claims of state flexibility for managing Medicaid and states’ ability to choose benefit packages in the soon-to-be-created state health exchanges are strongly contradicted by governors across the nation.

    Senator Olympia Snowe (R–ME) expressed skepticism of the tremendous increase in government bureaucracy, noting that the office of Secretary of HHS is mentioned 1,700 times in the new health law. Snowe expressed concern over the 121 pages of regulations relating to the grandfather clause, which lays out the reasons for how current health insurance plans lose their grandfathered status and become subjected to all the Obamacare mandates. It does seem apparent that the President’s pledge that individuals who like their health insurance can keep it will be broken. Snowe also wanted to know why Maine’s waiver of the minimum loss ratio requirement hasn’t been approved yet, and she indicated that if the waiver is not approved, Maine will lose a health insurance company that covers 14,000 individuals.

    It was notable that the Secretary did not have a response to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate, mentioned by several Senators, that Obamacare will result in 800,000 fewer Americans working when its mandates and subsidies fully take hold. The nonpartisan analysis of the CBO contradicts the message that Sebelius brought before the committee of “winning the future” through the President’s budget and health care law.

    The final area of Obamacare that Sebelius was questioned on was the Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS) program, a new government-run entitlement for long-term-care insurance. The Secretary agreed that CLASS—as written in the law—is fiscally unsustainable and would require a massive infusion of taxpayer funds. She mentioned that the law allows HHS discretion in changing the program’s design, mostly through tightening eligibility, to prevent an adverse-selection death spiral. Skepticism abounds, however, that HHS can actually find the right formula to fix CLASS, given the program’s fundamentally flawed structure.

    Moreover, Sebelius’s interpretation of the CLASS program is confusing. She remarked that “the program is designed for people to set aside their own money and then draw out their own money with no taxpayer support. The framework is not perhaps designed to mandate that only a few options could be available since people are basically spending their own money.” She makes CLASS sound like a government savings program rather than what the law says it is—a government insurance program that collects premiums and then pays claims to beneficiaries that meet the qualifications. The CLASS program represents government overreach and is a potential threat to taxpayers regardless of the Secretary’s apparent misunderstanding of it. But to inform the debate going forward, this misunderstanding needs to be resolved.

    Posted in Obamacare [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to Secretary Sebelius Questioned Before the Senate Finance Committee

    1. sanwitte says:

      The first new rule says you HAVE to have insurance. Both my husband and I have pre-existing conditions, and although the new bill says we can't be denied coverage because of it. So far, the cheapest health insurance we've been able to find is called "Wise Health Insurance" search for it online if you are pre-existing conditions.

    2. Bobbie says:

      Sebelius remarked that “the program is designed for people to set aside their own money and then draw out their own money with no taxpayer support." Then what's the purpose of government involvement??? The anti Americans running this country speak half truths if truth at all just for cost and confusion. The cleaning of America one day at a time…

    3. Mike, Wichita Falls says:

      Did any Senator ask her questions about the issuance of these 900+ waivers such as…

      …by what authority is she or HHS doing it?

      …what criteria are being used to give or withhold them?

      …how long will they last?

      Did any Senator ask her why she is implementing this federal district court-determined unconstitutional law?

      Are these questions even within the jurisdiction of this committee?

    4. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      Golly, Goofey! Why didn't I think of Christmas Club Accounts for the poor? No! I wouldn't put anything past Sebilius! This is the kind of Progressive thinking that we have seen for years! "Oh! We will just pay our buddies in the Media, and all that publicity? Problem solved!" They really think they solved the problem, mass advertising. Honest to Pete! Put incompetent people in at all levels of Government! Obama did that! You get the damnedest things!

      These people spend a dollar to give away a dime! They always call it something wonderful! What is going to happen to the Progressive Movement when they have used up all the good sounding words? Then what will they call it? CLASS? ya sure

      Let the People keep their own Capital! Don't tax Income! Simple, just take Federal Revenues at the spending end. Let the People accumulate Capital! Now that would be a class Act!

    5. Margaret Sheridan says:

      I agree with the commentator preceding me. WHY is this questioning even taking place. This life and death controlling bill which was "passed" by dishonorable and "unlawful" methods and has been declared UNCONSITUTIONAL" by two courts must be treated as such. NOT as if it is constitutional and will be in its intended oppressive effect on the working legal Americans of our Country.

      When someone is trying to destroy freedoms, ignoring it does not make it go away. This is whether it be the people in power or a fanatic cult/religion.

      Denial is the first stage. Second stage? Accept it exists and deal with it as responsible, freedom loving people we are – THE EXCEPTIONAL PEOPLE WE ARE.

    6. Norma in Nebraska says:

      And those, who could not see the writing on the wall, now are able to understand that they have been taken to the cleaners once again!!!!! Only in a republic such as ours would a single vote be taken that undermines 85 % of the population's happiness with our health care system to accommodate the 15% who are not covered!!! Of the 30 million people not covered in America, a major number are not supposed to be in our country at all and thus should not qualify for health care; about 1/3 of the remainder qualifies for Medicare or Medicaid and are not registered; and the rest are a segment of our population who CHOOSE to not have health insurance because they are healthy!!! So who is being damaged in the passage of this monstrous bill? That's right . . . the ones who work and pay their bills and pay their health insurance premiums ON THEIR OWN!!!!!

      I dare say that in ten years there will be NO private insurance industry and the masses will be at the mercy of our government . . . what was it our President said? Oh yeah, perhaps when you get sick it will be better for you to take that little blue pill for pain rather than fix what is wrong with you!!! Just remember, the same woman who testified before the Senate Finance Committee really has no clear understanding of what our health care will be like when the federal government takes over the program. We certainly are slow learners . . . can you think of a single program that our government administers that isn't in dire trouble???? NOPE!!!!!

      The silent majority must wake up and take back this country before it is too late. The future of our children and our grandchildren is at risk!

    7. Jan,Mercer,Pa. says:


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