GAO: Feds Spent $3.7 Billion On Obamacare But Aren’t Sure Where It Went

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The Obama administration hasn’t kept track of the $3.7 billion it spent last year on Obamacare and other federal health programs’ implementation, according to a federal audit.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency charged with implementing the health-care law, spent a boatload of money on building and advertising Obamacare exchanges, but it doesn’t have data to show what money it spent on what efforts — or what parts of it were effective.

“CMS’s processes are inconsistent with certain federal accounting and internal control standards,” the General Accountability Office concluded in an audit released Monday evening.

CMS spent a whopping $3.7 billion in fiscal year 2014; as of September 2013, it had 347 staff members whose total salary costs were $79.8 million between March 2010 through 2013, the audit found. Beyond that, not much was clear.

CMS’s Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), which works with state governments to run Obamacare, didn’t keep track of money spent on polling, focus groups, advertising or public relations efforts of any kind. The CCIIO couldn’t verify its staff salaries or travel, either.

The core financial system that CMS uses simply couldn’t provide the tracking information that the GAO requested. CMS didn’t have procedures to respond to the GAO’s request at all — they relied on “ad hoc manual procedures that were labor intensive and time consuming,” the report found, and CMS consequently took months to get the data ready for the audit.

When the data finally was ready, CMS still wasn’t about to document that the information was reviewed and accurate. Without keeping track of what they’re spending on Obamacare and where, the administration will not be able to determine which advertising efforts actually worked and in which states.

“After promising transparency and then ignoring repeated requests from Congress, we now find out that the administration is not even keeping track of how many taxpayer dollars are going out the door,” said Republican Rep. Dave Camp, who requested the audit, in a statement. “Worse yet, the administration won’t even account for how much it spent on public relations campaigns promoting their unpopular law.”

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Sarah Hurtubise