Monday, October 17, 2011

How to make all government programs live up to their promises

The WSJ has the real story behind the story about why HHS had to pull the plug on the CLASS Act. It wasn't merely that the whole thing was impossible to pay for.
The only reason the Health and Human Services Department pre-emptively called off this scheme is that former New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg succeeded in inserting a proviso that required the Class program's reality to match Democratic promises as a matter of law. If HHS couldn't provide "an actuarial analysis of the 75-year costs of the program that ensures solvency throughout such 75-year period," it couldn't be legally implemented.

In other words, HHS had to prove that the Class program wouldn't go broke the way it was designed to—and actuarial analysis is a matter of math, not politics. In a 48-page report that HHS submitted to Congress Friday, the department concedes that it is literally impossible to create any kind of long-term care program under the law's statutory text in which revenues match expenditures. Such a plan would cost as much as $3,000 per month, which no one would ever buy.

The HHS gnomes even considered "features deviating from or going beyond a plain reading of the statutory language" that its lawyers didn't think could pass legal muster, and they still couldn't avoid violating the known laws of mathematics despite 19 months of trying. HHS lawyers also said the government would have to warn enrollees that the promised benefits weren't contracts and could be abrogated to "dispel any claims that the Class program had misled the public or had encouraged reliance on its programs under false pretenses."
Of course, this was always obvious. Paul Ryan was laying out the case when Obama invited the GOP up for a White House summit on health care. Obama ignored him then, but the President can't escape reality and so we got Friday's announcement.

The WSJ suggests the GOP start pushing a Gregg-like amendment for the whole health care bill.
Our suggestion is for a Gregg-like amendment that applies to the entire health law and not simply Class. If reality can't match the rhetoric that accompanied the bill—about fiscal responsibility, bending the cost curve, keeping your health care if you like your health care and all the other false promises—then, legally, it should be repealed like Class. Call it a truth-in-advertising clause. ObamaCare would collapse in a heartbeat.
The Democrats would have to argue that they're against requiring the bill to do what they claimed it could do.

Heck, how about such an amendment for all government programs? That would be one way to make sure that programs did what the politicians assure us that they can do. If, after a set amount of time, it is clear that the program isn't operating as advertised, they'd have to pull the plug. How many programs would be left? Such a proviso might force politicians to actually craft programs that are viable. Imagine that.