During a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) admitted to double-counting in the Obamacare budget.
In her first appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee since the health-care law passed, Kathleen Sebelius responded to a line of questioning by Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois about whether $500 billion in Medicare cuts were used to sustain the program or pay for the law.
“There is an issue here on the budget because your own actuary has said you can’t double-count,” said Shimkus. “You can’t count — they’re attacking Medicare on the CR when their bill, your law, cut $500 billion from Medicare.”
He continued: “Then you’re also using the same $500 billion to what? Say your funding health care. Your own actuary says you can’t do both. […] What’s the $500 billion in cuts for? Preserving Medicare or funding the health-care law?
Sebelius’ reply? “Both.”
The Obama administration and HHS have been criticized previously for double-counting. In a report last summer, HHS claimed a provision in the health-care law would extend the Medicare trust fund by 12 years. The Congressional Budget Office released a memo that said HHS’s math was more than a little off.
“[…] They cannot be set aside to pay for future Medicare spending and, at the same time, pay for current spending on other parts of the legislation or on other programs … To describe the full amount of HI trust fund savings as both improving the government’s ability to pay future Medicare benefits and financing new spending outside of Medicare would essentially double-count a large share of those savings,” said the CBO memo.
“I was shocked to hear the secretary admit that $500 billion is double-counted in the health-care law,” said Shimkus after Thursday’s hearing. “We knew the health-care law’s actual cost was much greater than originally told to the public. And now, the truth is slowly coming out in administration reports and testimony.”
Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania , the chairman of the subcommittee added, “The same dollar can’t be used twice. This is the largest of the many budget gimmicks Democrats used to claim Obamacare would reduce the deficit.”
UPDATE: When contacted by The Daily Caller, Richard Sorian, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs had this to say:
“The scoring of the Affordable Care Act is entirely consistent with how legislation has been scored for the 30 years, under Presidents of both parties, and Congresses of both parties. Savings in programs like Medicare and Social Security are scored as improving the solvency of those programs and reducing the deficit.”