– Hello, everyone. I’m Stephen
Kruiser, and welcome to PJTV. Our guest today is Melissa
Quinn, who is a reporter for The Heritage
Foundation’s Daily Signal. And she just uncovered
yet more nefariousness regarding Obamacare and
its Medicaid expansion. So we knew we definitely needed to bring her in here and get the scoop. Melissa, thank you very much
for being with me today. – Hi, thank you for having me. – Can you sort of just
frame for the viewers what’s going on with this latest thing? I mean, there’s so many
with the Medicaid expansion. This latest thing with the Medicaid expansion that’s going on. – Yeah, so, this is a
very little-known program that was started under Obamacare. It’s called the Transitional
Reinsurance Program. And it’s really a program specifically for the insurance companies participating in the Affordable Care
Act, and specifically those who are selling plans on the exchanges the individual market plans. Now what the Obama administration worked out with insurance
companies was that they would make contributions into the Transitional Reinsurance Program, and then, for those who
accepted high risk patients, which are more costly, as we’ve all seen with the Affordable Care Act, they would receive payments from this Transitional Reinsurance Program to mitigate some of the risks that come from participating
in the Affordable Care Act. The interesting thing,
and what the controversy surrounding the program is, is that the Obama administration
was supposed to repay a total of $5 billion
back into the Treasury as mandated under the Affordable Care Act. Well, what we’ve seen happen now is that has not happened. Instead, the Obama administration has redirected $3.5 billion across 2014 and 2015
away from the Treasury and into the pockets
of insurance companies. And Republicans on Capitol
Hill are not happy about that. – Now, that has a long-term effect for the taxpayers too, if that money is not going back in the Treasury, right? – Absolutely. And what a lot of senators and members of the House of Representatives, particularly Republicans,
is they’re saying that this essentially equates to a bailout for insurance companies, and certainly served as a way
for the Obama administration to convince insurers to participate in the Affordable Care
Act in the first place. – So there’s an essential part of this I want people to understand. What you’re saying is
he kinda knew all along that they would be taking this money that was supposed to go
back into the Treasury and using it to pay off
the insurance companies and probably used that as
a leverage bargaining point to talk them into this, right? – Right. And the interesting thing is the Department of Health
and Human Services’s secretary, Sylvia Mathews Burwell actually testified on HHS’s
budget a few weeks ago. And of course this came up from some Republican members of the House. And she actually told them that HHS completely had the statutory authority to redirect that $3.5 billion
away from the Treasury and into insurance companies’ pockets. And Republicans in Congress
were not having it. And the other interesting thing, which is a very vital point here, is the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan agency, actually looked into this
very issue for Republicans on the Ways and Means and
Energy and Commerce Committees and the Congressional
Research Service said that HHS did not have the legal authority to move that money into the pockets of insurance companies
instead of the Treasury. They said that money should have gone to the Treasury outright. – So they’re just a rogue organization at this point, is what you’re saying. Like so many Cabinet-level
things are right now. This is just straight-up
corporate welfare, isn’t it? – Well, I certainly think
that a number of Republicans on Capitol Hill would agree with you. Like I mentioned earlier, they’re saying that this is the same thing
as an insurer bailout. Senator Marco Rubio and
Senator Orrin Hatch, from Florida and Utah respectively, actually came out with
a letter just last week questioning HHS Secretary Burwell and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew about this very issue, and they said, “Look, you are taking
money that rightfully “belongs to the taxpayers “and you’re giving it to
these big insurance companies, “specifically some of the big players “who are benefiting from this.” And a big issue for them too is what impact Marilyn Tavenner, who, as many people know,
left the Obama administration to go work for a big
lobbying firm, a trade group, if she played any role in this. – Now, what few successes
the administration’s been able to claim for Obamacare so far have largely been because
of the fudged numbers that the Medicaid expansion
has given it to this point. And now that the Medicaid expansion is at the center of
this whole Ponzi scheme. Not a Ponzi scheme, this is
more like the little thing where they do the shuffle
and you have to think, “that went in the part there”. They’re at the center of this. Is this going to come back and haunt specifically Republican governors who maybe have latched on
to the Medicaid expansion? Do you think the Republicans in Washington will start really going after
the Medicaid expansion harder and this could come
back, give some blowback to some Republican governors,
like, say, John Kasich? – Well, it seems like
Republicans on Capitol Hill definitely want to do
everything in their power to protect taxpayer dollars and make sure that the taxpayers are not getting jilted out of $3.5 billion that is being redirected into the pockets of these insurance companies. In terms of the Medicaid expansion, it certainly seems like that is one area of the healthcare law, the
Affordable Care Act in total, that Republicans in
Congress were targeting at least this past year with
the reconciliation bill. They actually included
the Medicaid expansion, which I think was a
surprise to many people, in that reconciliation
package that would have rolled back these key
provisions of Obamacare. So, Republicans on Capitol
Hill certainly seem to disagree that expanding Medicaid was the right way to go. And when you look at
those enrollment numbers that the Obama administration has put out, you actually see that a large number of Americans are enrolling in Medicaid. They’re not enrolling in
the traditional insurance through the exchanges, it’s
going straight into Medicaid. And that is one issue that
Republicans on Capitol Hill are looking to target in the future. – In a broader sense,
with these omnibus bills that are just looking bigger
and bigger all the time. You’re a little younger than I am. You probably aren’t as cynical thus far. But do you think that’s the reason they craft these bills so huge these days, so it’s easier for them
to shuffle money around and harder for the taxpayers to follow it? – I can tell you that some budget experts would certainly agree with you. Obviously, with an omnibus spending bill, we’re looking at over 1,000 pages of text and legislation and appropriations. So, in the past, it
seems like it was easier to sort of slip these pet projects into those omnibus spending packages. I will say though, that the
interesting thing about them, and I’ve talked to many
budget experts about that, is that while there is an opportunity to slip things in that
people may not be expecting, it does keep spending at current levels and doesn’t raise them. So, obviously, there’s trade-offs. But Speaker Paul Ryan has been very clear that with this new budget,
he wants to make sure that it’s done to regular order
12 appropriations bills, which would ideally lead to less spending and less programs that the American people just aren’t fully aware of. – A favorite talking
point on the Republican side of the aisle during
this presidential election is repealing or rolling back Obamacare, some aspects of it or all of it. Realistically, what can be
done in any of the scenarios, let’s say there’s a Republican president and the Republicans keep the Senate and obviously they’re
gonna keep the House, or the Democrats get the Senate, whatever it is, what
realistically can be done, even if it’s just something small, what steps can be taken initially to roll some of this back? – Well, a large part of
that comes down to November, and if a Republican or a Democrat is elected to the White House. Obviously Republicans in Congress would like to see a
Republican in the White House. And they pointed to the most recent fight over Obamacare with
the reconciliation bill as sort of proving their point that they can repeal Obamacare through reconciliation with just 51 votes, a simple majority in the Senate. And at that point, if it’s up to them, they would get it to the desk
of a Republican president who would then sign that
piece of legislation, repealing and significantly dismantling key provisions of Obamacare, if not rolling back the entire law. So a large part of what’s at stake in the future of the Affordable Care Act comes down to what happens in November. – I’m afraid that’s all
the time we have for today, although I could talk about this forever. I’d like to thank Melissa
Quinn very much for joining us. I really appreciate you being here today. – Thank you so much for having me. – You can catch up on the
whole Obamacare scandal and see some of Melissa’s other great work at dailysignal.com, and you can follow her on Twitter at MelissaQuinn97. I’m Stephen Kruiser, and you can catch me every week here on The Rundown with John Phillips and Scott Ott at PJTV. And I’d like to thank you all
very much for watching today.