The GOP Wants a Watchdog for Obamacare

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May 22 2015

In perhaps one of the most telltale signs that Republicans are starting to accept that Obamacare isn’t going away anytime soon, GOP lawmakers are rolling out legislation that would create a new independent agency to keep tabs on how the law is administered.

This week, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) introduced a bill that would create a new special inspector general to flag waste, fraud or abuse in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which is estimated to cost around $1.36 trillion over the next decade.

Related: Obamacare’s Dirty Secret: 31 Million Still Can’t Afford Treatment

The so-called Special Inspector General for Monitoring the Affordable Care Act (SIGMA) would be similar to previous special IG’s that have been created specifically to oversee massive federal projects or programs.

For example, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which was created by Congress in 2008, has flagged billions of dollars in waste while overseeing the $106 billion reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. SIGAR has yielded more than $1.6 billion in savings and at least 608 convictions of contractors who attempted to defraud the government. And for all of the savings special IG’s like SIGAR can realize annually, they operate on relatively small budgets. SIGAR requested $56.9 million for 2015.

Roskam’s bill aims to have a similar level of oversight specifically dedicated to Obamacare, beyond the work the existing inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services is already doing in that area.

The IG would likely investigate spending on the health exchange websites, including the $1.2 billion and growing cost of HealthCare.gov, as well as state exchanges. The office would also examine contract work that has been approved by HHS to make sure contractors are actually providing the work for which they are being paid.

SIGMA would also likely be in charge of monitoring whether the exchanges are doling out the correct amount of subsidies to the right people. Earlier this year, HealthCare.gov accidentally gave out incorrect subsidies to 1 million Americans — costing the government money and making it very difficult to process tax returns.

Related: How Obamacare Could Be Squeezing Consumer Spending​​

“Our bill will help to put in place an independent watchdog so that we can know how exactly this law is impacting Americans,” Roskam said. Although the Republicans rallying around his legislation are still hoping to replace the entire law, the fact that they want to create a whole new agency to oversee it suggests that they aren’t confident of repeal anytime soon.

"We need assurance that until Obamacare is repealed and replaced there is rigorous oversight in place to prevent more taxpayer dollars from being squandered on this law,” Roskam said.

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