Republicans question Obamacare’s $5 billion early retiree ‘slush fund’

House Republicans are challenging a slush fund they recently discovered in Obamacare — a $5 billion bailout for states, corporations and unions, dubbed the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP).

At a Friday hearing in Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Republicans alleged the Obama administration is passing out that $5 billion in taxpayer money to labor unions and companies it favors, like General Electric and General Motors — instead of using it to help early retirees obtain health insurance.

Also, the administration is racing through the $5 billion much faster than it previously projected — it was supposed to last until 2014, when no person will be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition. New statistics and projections, however, suggest it may run out before the end of 2012, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on Thursday they will no longer be accepting applications for subsidies after April 30. Between June 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2010, ERRP paid out $535 million, and during the first few months of 2011, ERRP has handed out another $1.3 billion.

According to Pres. Obama and Congressional Democrats, the program is meant to help early retirees who “often face difficulties obtaining insurance in the individual market because of age or chronic conditions that make coverage unaffordable or inaccessible.” But, Republicans on the Subcommittee say this “slush fund” is another reason they think Obamacare should be repealed.

Republicans took shots at Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight (CCIO) Deputy Administrator Steven Larsen for how the administration decides who gets a slice of the $5 billion pie – and how the application process works. At the Friday hearing, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, ripped Larsen because the program doesn’t require companies or labor unions to demonstrate a “financial need,” or that “they’re short of money or that they’re not going to be able to cover the cost of those that are enrolled in the plan that they are choosing to sponsor.”

Larsen said the companies and labor unions do, however, need to show they have a “current program” for early retirees. Also, because the Obama administration is not requiring companies to include details on any early retirement incentives in their applications, Blackburn said companies will likely encourage their employees to retire early, so they can get the taxpayer subsidies just to make their “bottom line” stronger.

“In order to make their bottom line look better, they could actually go to a universe of employees and say, ‘We’re going to incentivize your early retirement,’” Blackburn said. “And, then, move them into this plan that they’re going to submit an application to sponsor, then come to you with their hand out and say, ‘Hey, we need your millions, federal government.’ Do you not see why the American people are so frustrated with what you all are pouring out of these bureaucracies every day, on the American taxpayer? I mean, is this lost on you?”

Recipients of ERRP funding include the United Auto Workers union, which secured $206,798,086 in taxpayer money, AT&T, which took in $140,022,949, and General Electric (GE), which raked in $36,607,818. GE has made headlines recently for not paying any U.S. taxes last year. IBM got $12,989,690 in taxpayer money.

Verizon pulled $91,702,538 in taxpayer cash, too, and General Motors received $19,002,669. More than $6 million went to different Teamsters groups nationwide, and millions more went to the United Mine Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers, the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Ranking Subcommittee Democrat Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado and Rep. Henry Waxman, California Democrat, complained that a witness they requested wasn’t allowed into the hearing as a result of Chairman Rep. Cliff Stearns, Florida Republican, wanting to focus it on questioning Larsen. Blackburn shot back at their complaint with a quip of her own, though.

“If my colleagues are wondering why we’re not calling, or if we’re going to call, other witnesses on programs such as this early retirement program, I think we need to call the American taxpayer, who is footing the bill for this and is livid with the lack of accountability and the lack of measurable results that they see coming from these programs,” Blackburn said. “It is hard to understand, in my book, why we would not repeal these programs when you look at this program and the burn rate of this money. I’m curious as to why you have flown through $1.3 billion over the last two and a half months.”

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  • BigRmv

    Sorry Francis. You’re a self-sufficient, hard-working citizen. That’s a criminal offense under this administration, so you have no rights.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Francis-Kelly-Jr/100000153182458 Francis Kelly Jr

    this is a country based on equal rights???

    Where is MY early retirement supplement? (self-employed small business owner)

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  • didacticrogue


    I don’t worship Obama. I know that’s [hard] for you to understand.

    Well, in our defense, all we really have to go on is the comments you share with us here. And it’s not as if I imagine you have an actual shrine to him at your house or anything (though a poster or bumper sticker or two wouldn’t surprise me in the least). “Unwarranted admiration bordering on idolatry,” perhaps. There … better?

    You have to either be a hater or a lover in your simple, binary minds.

    Simple? Binary? Honey, if you only knew.

    Your hate for Obama blinds you to the manipulative language of politicians like John Boehner. You swallow whole anything that’s wrapped in an anti-Obama cover.

    First, I’m one of the best masticators I know. Second, you might be surprised to hear that I neither hate the president nor particularly admire Boehner – though I despise the “manipulative language” of both. The president and the speaker seem like affable enough guys – ones with whom I’d undoubtedly enjoy sharing a drink and some (likely heated) conversation.

    I do believe that the president’s in well over his head (something I think he’s probably aware of too, given his unprecedented penchant for solo rounds of golf, vacations, romantic getaways, and white house parties … avoid work much, Mr. President?), and hate the electoral malaise manifested by his election, and the undeniable lurch towards statism that his politics – and his administration and its policies – represent. Worst president ever, but nope, no “hate” here.

    Didacticrogue … is just a pompous jerk.

    I’ve been called far worse by those whose opinions I’ve valued far more, but thanks for sharing – and thanks for playing.

    • truebearing


      You seem to have been stereotyped by the DC left. It seems like every time you write intelligent, well reasoned, factual responses to their mutton-headed maunderings, they accuse you of being “pompous”. Maybe you need to use more common invective so they feel more at home. You know how they hate anything that threatens their elitist delusions. I have a number of well worn, but accurate terms you can borrow.

      Pink has a real problem with men who are smarter than her, or women who are better looking. I guess that makes her the ultimate misanthrope. Whatever you do, don’t opine on how hot Palin looks. It really upsets her.

      • The_anniebanannie

        Too bad she’s too immature and unbalanced to even grasp the fact that EVERYBODY is smarter than she is. She’s too busy trolling.

        • pink

          Wow, the executive committee of the pompous jerk club. Sir Let Me Impress You With My Vocabulary, Count Crackpot Druid-Boy, and Miss Crabby Pants. My feelings are so hurt. Laughing at you who take yourselves and the comment section of a third-rate political website so seriously.

          • didacticrogue

            While both non-responsive and invective, your post does at least validate annie’s point. That you choose to assiduously haunt “the comment section of a third-rate website,” throwing bombs and leaving little but pitiable opprobrium in your wake, speaks volumes on the nature of your being. As our reigning “Queen Troll” seems to have scurried away (where is scorp, anyway?), perhaps we should officially pass the mantle to you. I’m sure we can find a bridge under which you can hang your hopey-changey bric-a-brac.

          • pink

            Let me keep giving you a reason to pontificate, didactic. It’s all you have, I know. Someone as pompous as you are must have a hard time finding people to talk to. Show me the last post of substance you created, eh? What did you start this thread with if not a stream of “invective”?

            Basically, you people don’t like me here, because I have an alternate opinion. It interrupts the echo chamber. When you can’t twist my words to say what you’d like them to say so you can call me a Communist or a statist or whatever ism you’re all afraid of this week, you start in with the name calling and the assumptions about my being on the government dole. It’s so predictable. You live in a hyperbolic and fear-filled world. There is no point in making reasoned arguments here. Your world view is totally skewed in a manner that makes you fear not only your government, but your fellow citizens.

            You’re a bunch of paranoid losers serving at the behest of Corporate America, defending the upper class you have no hope of ever being part of. You love the people you call “trolls” because you use them to kick and insult. Finally you have someone in your pathetic little lives to feel superior to. It’s truly laughable. The people in my office couldn’t believe people like you existed. Now this place has become our daily source of entertainment and office pools. Let’s see how many things the nutters are afraid of now. Who wins the award for stringing the most isms and ists together? How many not-so-veiled racist comments will posters make today? How many finger-wagging posts can annie do in a day? Can ladylove get any more syntactically incorrect or abuse commas any more? How many people who type in all caps will be attracted to this headline? How fast will phillipjames reach the site after Sarah Palin’s name is mentioned? What unflattering photo of Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin will the Daily Caller choose next?

            The entertainment is endless. But we love you. Because it’s the nutters like you who will pull the Republican part so far right they will have no hope of nominating a candidate that can beat Obama. We love you RINO-screamers dearly for that.

          • didacticrogue

            I’m intrigued that you characterize my addition of the descriptors “proud” and “unapologetic” (in reference to your unwarranted-admiration-bordering-on-idolatry of the president) as “invective.” How dare I represent you as a proud, unapologetic (if a bit too ardent) Obama supporter … the nerve!

            I’m sorry I haven’t had as much time to devote to your education and entertainment lately. Truth is, the Obamaconomy has been doing its best to kick my butt, and I’ve been having to spend a lot of time kicking back. I’m [sarc]thrilled[/sarc] you’ve missed me though – tell all the other girls at the office I haven’t forgotten about them, either. Give it another couple of years (six at the outside) and things will probably start getting better.

            You’re wrong about why you’re not particularly well liked here, you know. It is not because you “have an alternate opinion,” as I’ve personally seen plenty of “alternate opinion” debated here reasonably, interestingly, and well. It is, rather, that you have convinced yourself that “there is no point in making reasoned arguments here.” Well, that, and saying things like “you’re a bunch of paranoid losers” isn’t all that endearing, either.

            I come here and I read a lot of things – some of which I agree with and some of which I do not. Which of those things are which might surprise you, but you can’t see past that giant brush you’re busy painting everyone else with well enough to even realize that we (yourself included) are all individuals here with individual opinions, let alone care. It’s as if you want to be “binary” and assume we are all what you say we are – the antithesis of you and everything you believe you hold dear. I guess it makes life simpler and more entertaining for you and your fellow office drones to think of us that way. Bottom line: you’re wrong, and you’re not likely to change. Your loss.

          • pink

            There are “boys” in my office too.

            “but you can’t see past that giant brush you’re busy painting everyone else with well enough to even realize that we (yourself included) are all individuals here with individual opinions, let alone care. It’s as if you want to be “binary” and assume we are all what you say we are – the antithesis of you and everything you believe you hold dear. I guess it makes life simpler and more entertaining for you and your fellow [daily caller posters} to think of us that way. Bottom line: you’re wrong, and you’re not likely to change. Your loss.”

            Read your own words into a mirror, didactic, because you’re describing yourself and most of your cohorts here to a tee. You’re a member of the big brush club yourself. It’s classic projection. You assume you know a lot more about me and what I think that you actually know or have witnesssed, and you have very little self awareness of how rigid and unaccepting of others’ points of view you are. The mere fact that you will disagree that you’re projecting proves my point.

  • captdot

    It surprising that only now are they going after this provision. This is a very prominent provision in the “Heathcare Deform” Act. I even saw it early on when I slogged through the bill! This cronyism is despicable, and the fact that this is just coming to light for Congress and the general public is even more disgraceful.

  • KGC

    A general FYI to those posting here re poster “Pink”…

    Don’t be bothered by her. She’s just making it up as she goes along. Thoughtful, informed posters here tend to ignore her. She’s good for a few rounds of sparring, but can’t seem to go the distance intellectually and tends to take a knee when confronted with pesky facts and reason. Her primary posting behavior is that silly hit-and-run strategy, which is probably the product of a limited functioning vocabulary and too much time spent tweeting. Don’t take offense; it’s nothing personal. How could it be? She’d have to actually stray from her Leftist talking points and listen to lift herself to that level.

    Anyway, she’s doing the best she can. Still, it’s fun to knock her around a little, as long as you keep your expectations low. Her relationship with the truth, reality even, is spotty at best, and so, inevitably, disappoints.

    • pink

      I guess I should take a lesson from you. You’re really good at using a lot of words to say absolutely nothing at all.

      • clw

        No one wants you here, you can stop coming any day now.


  • sunnyr

    This corrupt little plot is just to sweeten the pot for Obozo’s UNION Thugs! Who in the hell does this clown think he is? This is going to come back to bite him on his skinny butt, BIG TIME!!! One and done in 2012! Throw this cheap Chicago CROOK out of office!