December 12 2013

ObamaCare Spending Spree

Patrice J. Lee

What does $14,000 buy you? A Chevrolet Sonic to shuttle around in or a lovely Cartier watch for those with discriminating taste.

For American taxpayers, that's also the price of one ObamaCare enrollee—and this is for enrollment via the information superhighway.

Let’s do the math.

Yesterday, the Administration released its embarrassing ObamaCare enrollment numbers. Only 364,682 Americans have “enrolled.” That enrollment definition is fishy in itself given that enrollment is the equivalent of adding a plan to a shopping cart without checking out, because making a payment isn’t yet possible.

The government’s implementation costs for healthcare.gov, according to Kathleen Sebelius’s testimony yesterday, is $677 million. The government has spent just under half of that, but given the work that still needs to be completed by contractors, we can expect the government to use every penny.

On the state exchange websites the government spent an additional $4.5 billion at least. These billions have been funneled through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and distributed as grants to states to be spent on sundry costs including IT design staff and consultants, executive leadership, and more staff and consultants. The state breakdowns are breathtaking with California alone reaping nearly a billion dollars.

So quick calculation brings us to over $14,000: ($4.5 billion + $677 million) / 364,682 = $14,196 per person enrolled.

Did you get a good deal?

It’s better than Oregon, where the measly 44 healthcare enrollees cost $300 million. For the $6.1 million spent on each enrollee here, you can buy a Lamborghini, Maybach, Aston Martin and still have money to spare on a new haute couture wardrobe.

The Washington Examiner reports on this:

Oregon, once touted as a model for President Obama's health care law, signed up just 44 people for insurance through November, despite spending more than $300 million on its state-based exchange.

The state’s exchange had the fewest sign-ups in the nation, according to a new report today by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The weak number of sign-ups undercuts two major defenses of ObamaCare from its supporters.

One defense was that state-based exchanges were performing a lot better than the federalhealthcare.gov website servicing 36 states. But Oregon's website problems have forced the state to rely on paper applications to sign up participants.

Another defense of the Obama administration has attributed the troubled rollout of Obamacare to the obstruction of Republican governors who wanted to see the law fail as well as a lack of funding.

But Oregon is a Democratic state that embraced ObamaCare early and enthusiastically. Its outreach effort, which included a folk-style music video featuring a singer playing an acoustic guitar against a colorful and scenic backdrop, had been praised among the law's supporters.

This would be funny if the joke weren’t on taxpayers. We are forced to foot the bill for an expansion of government that a majority of Americans don’t want. According to Gallup, of the Americans who know about ObamaCare, nearly 60% disapprove of it.

We often highlight the unintended consequences of even well-meaning government programs. In this case, ObamaCare has led to cancelled healthcare insurance plans, community college and HBCU students losing their plans, rising healthcare costs for many Americans, and patients losing access to their preferred doctors, healthcare providers and medications.

As the numbers above demonstrate, inefficiency is another consequence of government assuming space better left to the private market. The Administration has revealed its ineptitude in implementing ObamaCare, bending under the weight of the scale and scope of this sweeping legislation. That often happens to government because it takes a paint roller to a problem that requires a fine-tipped brush. Procurement and budgets run unchecked as well. Do you remember reports of $400 hammers and $600 toilet seats in the 1980s by the Pentagon?

Sebelius has launched an investigation into the botched ObamaCare website rollout but what needs to be assessed is the faulty philosophy that government is the best vehicle to address the shortcomings of our healthcare system specifically and intractable social problems at large.

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