COMMENTARY: Congress Should Impeach Andy Slavitt

Congress will soon begin an impeachment inquiry into Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen for his failure to truthfully and properly disclose information relating to the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups.  For the sake of efficiency, the House may want to consider adding Andrew Slavitt’s name to the proceeding.

Andy Slavitt is the Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  He is a former health care industry official for United Health Group whose appointment to the administration was mired in controversy.  Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Ralph Nader-founded Public Citizen, called the nomination “highly inappropriate,” and said that when Slavitt joined CMS in July 2014, he was issued a waiver that allowed him to be exempt from Obama’s executive order on ethics in government.

Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a free market healthcare reform advocacy group, called Slavitt’s waiver and then nomination a “direct violation” of Obama’s promise to keep special interests out of policy decisions.

Slavitt is also under fire for being allowed to keep a tax-free $4.8 million health industry stock, including some from United Health Group, after he was hired at CMS.

At the time of his appointment, Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, “I have asked CMS to provide details on how it’s walling off Mr. Slavitt from potential conflicts of interest.  I will continue to ask these questions as part of the nomination process.” As of now, it is unclear whether Mr. Grassley has received an answer to his valid concern.

Although Slavitt has not been confirmed, he still remains in charge of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, making highly questionable decisions and failing to accurately answer questions to Congress.

In December, Slavitt told a Congressional committee that “over $200 million” in wasted federal funds had been returned to federal government from the state exchanges that opted to set up their own health care exchanges under Obamacare. According to the testimony, the money came from “unspent dollars to the Treasury, collecting grants, collecting improperly spent dollars, and preventing more from going out the door.” However, the investigation found that in truth, CMS only recouped a paltry $21.5 million from the 16 states and the District of Columbia.

The Committee found:

Mr. Slavitt’s testimony misled the committee in two ways: he misstated the amount of grant money returned to the Treasury, and he wrongfully implied that the funds were returned because of improper spending and CMS’ oversight efforts. According to CMS’ chart, CMS recovered a small fraction of the $200 million Mr. Slavitt declared at the committee’s December 8 hearing. In fact, the federal government has only reclaimed $21.5 million from the 17 SBEs. Further, CMS did not “recoup” these dollars. These funds were de-obligated, because the time for the grant had expired or the funds were no longer needed. None of the funds reflect grant dollars recouped by CMS due to improper spending. CMS, however, never corrected or revised Mr. Slavitt’s testimony before the committee. Further, CMS does not appear to have corrected the record with the numerous news outlets that reported CMS recouped $200 million from failed SBEs.

Slavitt also made questionable decisions that suggest politics have influenced his office.  When the federal government sought to recoup the wasted federal money from contractors working on Maryland’s Obamacare exchange, Slavitt gave a portion of the funds recouped to the state of Maryland, raising allegations of a “Blue State Slush Fund.”  Maryland, which did not provide even a penny of its own funds to the exchange, had no right to any of the money. It appears that Slavitt merely wanted to reward them for supporting Obamacare.

There is little doubt that one of the greatest scandals surrounding Obamacare relates to Oregon. Then Gov. John Kitzhaber wasted over $300 million in state and federal taxpayer funds building the “model” Obamacare exchange.  Unfortunately, the model malfunctioned. After being advised by contractors working on the site that they needed more time to make it work, Kitzhaber instead he flipped the switch. After failing to sign up even one person for healthcare, his political advisor pulled the plug on the exchange, shut it down, and rolled everyone onto the federal exchange without nearly a peep from the federal government – including Andy Slavitt.

Slavitt’s performance in office certainly raises to the level of an impeachment inquiry. It’s time for the Republican-controlled Congress to take a stand against crony capitalism and further investigate the matter at hand.

 


Cloakroom Confidential

Cloakroom Confidential

Cloakroom Confidential was a longtime Capitol Hill staffer and insider who has contacts in the House and Senate at the highest levels.

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