The Sequester Can't Stop Obamacare

The Sequester Can't Stop Obamacare
March 1, 2013

Benjamin Domenech

Benjamin Domenech (bdomenech@heartland.org) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute. Domenech... (read full bio)

President Obama has been talking a good game on the threats of sequestration to all sorts of government services. But his administration is determined not to let the automatic budget cuts in any way derail the implementation of Obamacare. Politico reports:

The Department of Health and Human Services wouldn’t respond to questions about the automatic budget cuts and health law implementation. But both advocates and critics of the law expect HHS to use all the flexibility it can muster to keep it moving — although it could get harder if the sequestration is prolonged.

“I’ll put it this way: When they talk about dogs and cats sleeping together, the hell-on-earth consequences of the sequester taking effect, one of the things they have not mentioned is that they won’t be able to implement the [health law],” said Tevi Troy, former deputy secretary of HHS under President George W. Bush.

The administration may complain about the bluntness of across-the-board cuts, but when it comes to Obamacare, it “will move heaven and earth” to get it done, Troy predicted.

That may mean sacrificing some other priorities to the cause of pushing the health law across the finish line. It includes continuing to cobble together money to finish the federal exchange, which got no explicit funding of its own in the health care law and is far more costly than initially envisioned because HHS has to build them in 25 states, way more than anticipated...

Key parts of the health law are exempt from the sequester, notably the money to subsidize insurance for eligible people and the Medicaid expansion. Those don’t start until 2014 anyway. But other administrative aspects, including set-up funds, are affected.

Jonathan Tobin has more:

The point to be gleaned from this is not just that the administration thinks ObamaCare is so sacred that its funding must be protected even as it claims vital services must be sacrificed because of the sequester (which the White House thought up in the first place). It is that its commitment to its big government agenda is the guiding principle that animates everything it does. That is the sort of thing that leads Republicans to believe that any compromise on their part that provides more revenue to government will go toward furthering the president’s laundry list of new spending projects as well as his signature health care legislation that will deepen our budget woes rather than solve them.

The decision to prioritize the ObamaCare rollout gives the lie to the administration’s phony crisis talk this week. But it also illustrates just how deep the ideological commitment to spending and taxing is inside the White House. There is nothing balanced about an approach to the budget crisis that places the new health care plan on a pedestal that vital services such as air traffic control, border security and education (all of which we have been told will be drastically affected by the sequester) do not merit in the view of the administration.

It remains to be seen whether sequestration will get any blame for failures of Obamacare in the early going. Keep an eye out for it when it comes.

Benjamin Domenech

Benjamin Domenech (bdomenech@heartland.org) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute. Domenech... (read full bio)