The mutual lies of Obamacare

During last year’s budget negotiations, Senate and House Republicans warned that many Obamacare enrollees would provide false information about their income in order to obtain subsidies to which they are not entitled. In response, HHS Secretary Sebelius (remember her?) promised to put in place a system through which the government would thoroughly vet the salary information submitted by applicants for coverage. That promise was a predicate — or if you’re cynical like me, a fig leaf — for the bargain Congress reached.

Consider Sebelius’ promise another lie of Obamacare. According to the Washington Post, hundreds of thousands of Americans are likely receiving bigger Obamacare subsidies than they deserve because they submitted incorrect salary information which the government did not properly vet before awarding subsidies.

It was assumed, surely, that the vetting system promised by Sebelius would be fully computerized. But the administration had enough trouble getting its Obamacare computer system up and running at all. It still lacks the ability to use computers to resolve inconsistencies between the information submitted by applicants and IRS records (e.g. by uploading applicants’ pay stubs).

Thus, when the government finally turns to this task, it will do so by hand. That work is not expected to begin until “sometime this summer,” according to the Post.

The number of “inconsistencies” in the information supplied by Obamacare applicants is believed to be massive. The Post reports that internal documents suggest that more than 3 million of the 5.5 million enrolled in the federal insurance exchange have at least one inconsistency. Between 1.1 and 1.5 million inconsistencies are believed to involve income discrepancies.

In the days of the Soviet Union, workers used to joke that “the government pretends to pay us and we pretend to work.” So far under Obamacare, the joke seems to be “we pretend to report our real earnings and the government pretends to check.”

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