GOP demands stronger oversight of $45B Biden boost to Obamacare

By | May 21, 2021

Republicans are demanding that the Biden administration exercise greater oversight of the massive expansion of Obamacare premium tax credits enacted as part of President Joe Biden’s pandemic relief legislation, a boost that federal budget experts say will cost taxpayers nearly $ 45 billion.

“The U.S. Government Accountability Office has found that these subsidies are susceptible to significant improper payments,” 28 Republicans told the administration in a letter exclusively obtained by the Washington Examiner. “With the federal deficit projected to grow to record levels this year, fiscal accountability has never been more important.”

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Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey and 27 other GOP lawmakers demanded the Biden administration disclose how it plans to verify enrollment eligibility for expanded Obamacare tax subsidies outlined in the American Rescue Plan, an expansion estimated to cost over $ 44.9 billion.

Biden’s $ 1.8 trillion American Rescue Plan signed into law in March temporarily expanded tax subsidies for insurance plans under Obamacare to help people hurt financially during the pandemic to afford coverage. Republicans from both chambers are calling on the Biden administration to explain how it plans to mitigate the risk of improper spending.

The American Rescue Plan enhanced premium tax subsidies to help earners at every income level pay for coverage and, for the first time, made those with incomes greater than four times the federal poverty level eligible. Unemployment benefit recipients are also eligible for subsidies and cost-sharing reductions during 2021 that will allow them to obtain a zero-premium benchmark silver plan.

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The expansion is slated to last through 2022.

“[The Department of Health and Human Services] announced that tax credits for those receiving unemployment benefits would be available in the summer, but noted that these consumers can enroll starting April 1, 2021,” the letter to the administration said. “To date, neither the Internal Revenue Service nor HHS has released information on how it plans to verify subsidiary eligibility for unemployment benefit recipients.”

The American Rescue Plan also changed the rules for year-end tax reconciliation of insurance premium subsidies for those workers whose incomes increase during the year, which the Congressional Budget Office said will cost taxpayers more than $ 6.2 billion.

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The GOP lawmakers are pressuring the Biden administration to disclose how it plans to verify enrollee eligibility for the expanded credits, proposing that the Department of Health and Human Services cross-reference data from the Internal Revenue Service. They also asked the administration to provide “additional details on the structure of the improper payment program … the status of the development of the improper payment rate for state-based exchanges, and a timeline for completion of both improper payment rates.”

Their demands also include an explanation of how HHS will enforce the Hyde Amendment, a provision attached to congressional appropriations bills that prohibits federal funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman’s pregnancy threatens her life, in plans that would otherwise have zero premiums. Under Obamacare, the plan issuer must establish two separate accounts into which enrollees deposit premium payments: one account from which abortion claims are paid and another account from which all other claims are paid.

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The Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate sent the list of demands to Biden on Thursday. They have also requested that the administration conduct an interagency briefing to review plans to improve oversight of how the government spends taxpayer dollars.

Other Republicans who signed the letter include Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, Montana Sen. Steve Daines, Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, and Texas Rep. Kevin Brady.

Healthcare