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House Oversight Committee hearing exposes political influence peddling, wasted tax funds in Obamacare co-ops

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Mark Tapscott,Morning Examiner,Obamacare

It's an Obamacare-inspired program that cost "only" $2 billion and has mostly escaped media attention, but that may be changing now, thanks to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The "it" here is the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan program, which used $2 billion in federally guaranteed loans to fund creation of 24 state-level health insurance co-ops to provide competition to private sector companies.

Washington Examiner watchdog senior investigative reporter Richard Pollock first began reporting the serious problems in the Obamacare co-op program last year.

$25 million improperly diverted

As Pollock and watchdog reporter Kelly Cohen reported, a contentious joint hearing Wednesday of two oversight panel subcommittees focused on a pair of "case studies of political influence peddling and millions of taxpayer dollars wasted."

The first case study was of the Freelancers Union nonprofit, which received $340 million under Obamacare to establish co-ops in New York, New Jersey and Oregon.

Freelancers was ineligible for federal co-op funding due to its for-profit subsidiaries. But aggressive lobbying of the Obama White House and the Department of Health and Human Services got around that roadblock and resulted in $25 million of the $340 million being improperly diverted to one of the for-profit subsidiaries.

Conflicts of interest

The second case study looked at the failed Vermont Health Co-op, which was riven with conflicts of interest and folded after state insurance officials refused to grant it a license to operate.

The Oversight Committee's staff report also described independent reviews that questioned the financial viability of the co-ops, suggesting, for example, that the Freelancer's Union either "is holding too much cash in reserves or that they are over-stating assets.”

The Wednesday hearing won't be the last word on the co-ops because the committee concluded its report with this warning:

"In the weeks and months ahead, the committee will continue its work to ensure that Congress and the American taxpayers have the requisite information to fully assess the true costs of the ObamaCare CO-OP program."

On today's washingtonexaminer.com

Editorial: Obama's NLRB resurrects unions' "Ambush Elections" regulation.

Watchdog/Richard Pollock and Kelly Cohen: House panel says Obamacare co-op improperly diverted $25 million.

Watchdog/Too Big to Manage: Congress unwilling to offend federal employee unions by reforming official time.

Columnist/David Freddoso: Obamacare - making not working pay.

Columnist/Cal Thomas: Disqualification of Christian film nominated for Oscar smacks of prejudice.

Columnist/Michael Barone: Americans learn to succeed by learning from failure.

Beltway Confidential/Timothy P. Carney: Farm subsidies, politics and the ratchet of statism.

Beltway Confidential/Joel Gerhke: Citizens United is "very important" to Hobby Lobby's attempt to takedown Obamacare birth control mandate.

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The New York Times: Tech industry flexes political muscle in California race.

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NBC News: Cheap, skilled Russian hackers power American cybercrime.

Righty Playbook

The Patriot Post: Liberty is colorblind in the real immigration debate.

The American Thinker: Gun control is a war on gun owners, not a conversation.

National Review Online: Wasteful high jinks at the Labor Department.

Bonus must-read

The Federalist: The lessons of David and Goliath for the Tea Party and the GOP Establishment.

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Mother Jones: The Kochs left a confidential document at their last donor conference. Read it here.

The American Prospect: The moment of creation.

Washington Monthly: How the White House ate the cabinet.

Bonus must-read

The Progressive: Chris Christie's demise has Scott Walker licking his chops.

Blog Right

Blue Collar Perspective: This is how stupid Democrats think voters are.

Kids Prefer Cheese: Look, the tax system is progressive.

Newmark's Door: No, no, the CBO report is actually good news.

Blog Left

Talking Points Memo: Mitt Romney thinks Chris Christie is telling the truth.

Shakesville: Marissa Alexander update from Florida.

America Blog: Three deaths and a missing reporter, all with ties to Wall Street investigations.

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Author:

Mark Tapscott

Executive Editor
The Washington Examiner