- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2015

Democrats rushed to defend Obamacare a day after auditors found it open to fraud, saying Thursday that the investigation that managed to sign 11 fake enrollees up for health plans wasn’t actually evidence of real-world fraud.

Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said the fake profiles, created by the Government Accountability Office as a way to test whether Obamacare could weed out fraud, weren’t a good test, and insisted if they’d been real applications they would have been flagged by the IRS or other agencies.

“Not one of them was a real person who filed taxes or got medical services,” he said. “No fast-buck fraudster got a government check sent to their bank account.”

But Republicans said the GAO investigation was stunning, and exposed loopholes in President Obama’s signature health law, saying the administration is intent on padding its numbers at any cost.

The GAO said 11 out of 12 fictitious applications that investigators filed as a test were approved for plans on HealthCare.gov in 2014, and were to have been paid a total of $30,000 in taxpayer handouts.

All 11 were able to automatically reenroll in their plans for 2015, too, meaning the administration didn’t kick them out during a second wave of sign-ups under Mr. Obama’s signature overhaul.

“I don’t think you can write this kind of report off,” Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, said.

Seto J. Bagdoyan, the GAO’s director of audit services, said his investigators used bogus documents, including Social Security numbers, proof of income and citizenship, and still got tax credits through the exchange.

Obamacare officials flagged six of the fake applications for termination in 2015, but investigators were able to reinstate coverage for five of them anyway, in part because contractors are not trained to detect fraud, the GAO said.

“As of now, I think the balance would probably favor access [to coverage] over program integrity,” Mr. Bagdoyan he said.

The audit boosted Republicans’ hopes of denting Obamacare this year, then shooting for a complete repeal after the 2016 election.

As it stands, GOP leaders are devising repeal efforts through a fast-track budget tool known as reconciliation.

Mr. Obama has said it’s time for the GOP to lay down its arms and work to improve the law, but leading Republicans said they will not trust an administration that hasn’t tried to weed out fraudulent applications.

“I think it’s pretty clear just what’s going on here,” committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, said.

As of June, the administration counted 10.2 million paying customers in the law’s marketplace. About 8.7 million received tax credits, with 6.4 million of them using the federal website.

The subsidies are paid directly to insurers to cover costs, and taxpayers are required to square up the details in their tax filings.

GAO’s fake enrollees never filed returns to the IRS, so “the study before us today ignores that anti-fraud check,” Mr. Wyden said.

He said the Senate should wait for the GAO’s planned review of the enrollment population at large, and then work on a bipartisan basis to root out fraud.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide