House ethics watchdog Rep. Darrell Issa accused the Obama administration of trying to "buy" the election by covering up Medicare cuts with an $8.3 billion stop-gap program.
The pilot program was designed to offset cuts to federal subsidies in the Medicare Advantage program, which helps seniors purchase select private health insurance plans. The California Republican noted that officials from the Government Accountability Office voiced skepticism about the efficacy of the $8.3 billion program. He said that the administration was counting on the temporary measure to downplay the severity of cuts to the Advantage program, according to the National Journal.
"So the secretary of HHS has unlimited ability to take appropriated money and do what she wants without Congress, to spend $8.3 billion to see if it works even though GAO experts say it won’t work?" He said that amounted to "the president using $8.3 billion to buy an election."
A GAO official at the hearing reaffirmed the inefficiencies, as well as the lack of discernible benefits, of the hastily approved pilot project.
James Cosgrove, director of health care issues at GAO, said that the demonstration project, as designed, relies too much on past data, doesn’t provide a control group, and doesn’t offer better bonus incentives than the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The result, he said, "will be that there might be quality improvements, but we won’t know if they’re attributable to the demonstration."