Monday, October 29, 2012

An Obama Crony Lands a $100 million Obamacare Waiver

Today, Crain's Chicago Business reports that yet another one of President Obama's cronies received an Obamacare waiver:
 Cook County hit a $100 million jackpot over the weekend. 
In a little noticed but crucial decision announced Friday night, the federal government signed off on a request by county board President Toni Preckwinkle to enroll 114,000 low-income people a year early in the Medicaid program. 
For the county, the decision is worth as much as $100 million a year, since its network of hospitals and health clinics already is serving most of the patients free of charge. The tab now will be picked up by federal taxpayers under a provision of Obamacare, rather than by Cook County taxpayers alone.
Ms. Preckwinkle isn't only the Cook County board President (and Lady Liberty in the above picture). She is also an Obama mentor who infamously said that President Reagan could "rot in hell" for making "drug use political", as Tony Lee reported at this past summer:
 Preckwinkle was discussing drug policy and how she felt drug treatment should not be a part of the criminal justice system. She was defending the decision by Chicago city officials to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. And her comments were in reference to Reagan’s “war on drugs,” which President Richard Nixon started. During Reagan’s tenure, First Lady Nancy Reagan started the “Just Say No” campaign against drugs. 
Preckwinkle made those comments in downstate Illinois. Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois.  
Preckwinkle helped Obama challenge the signatures of his primary opponents to run unopposed in his 1996 state senate race. Obama often reminisces about this race as a heroic, Rudy-esque foray into politics in which he overcame all odds to win.
Preckwinkle also supported Barack Obama in his failed primary run against sitting Congressman Bobby Rush in 2000, his 2004 US Senate run and his 2008 presidential run. As The New Yorker stated in a 2008 article, Preckwinkle was the one who suggested Obama begin attending Jeremiah Wright's church:
On issue after issue, Preckwinkle presented Obama as someone who thrived in the world of Chicago politics. She suggested that Obama joined Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ for political reasons. “It’s a church that would provide you with lots of social connections and prominent parishioners,” she said. “It’s a good place for a politician to be a member.” Preckwinkle was unsparing on the subject of the Chicago real-estate developer Antoin (Tony) Rezko, a friend of Obama’s and one of his top fund-raisers, who was recently convicted of fraud, bribery, and money laundering: “Who you take money from is a reflection of your knowledge at the time and your principles.” As we talked, it became increasingly clear that loyalty was the issue that drove Preckwinkle’s current view of her onetime protégé. “I don’t think you should forget who your friends are,” she said. 
 Beyond the cronyism, this "waiver" only serves to place the people of the greater Chicago area and Illinois further underwater fiscally. Most businesses, states, and areas who have sought an Obamacare waiver had done so to delay the implementation of Obamacare. Preckwinkle's request for a waiver was to begin Medicaid expansion in Cook County early, and subsequently fill a budget gap for Cook County. This is normal for Illinois politicians who often seek federal dollars to cover their own budgetary failures.With Medicaid's hybrid of federal and state funding, the solicitation of federal dollars has also led to state and local budgetary increases,and, of course, fiscal problems. A recent report on state budgets in crisis notes that one of the things that has put Illinois in such great financial peril is Medicaid:
Illinois' other structural problem is Medicaid. In FY 2010, Medicaid accounted for 23 percent of the state's budget and that figure is going to grow under the Affordable Care Act. Under the best case scenario Obamacare will only raise spending 3.3 percent above the current baseline by 2019. However other scenarios suggest the increase could be as much as 20 percent by 2020. 
Rather than address these structural problems, Illinois has resorted to heavy borrowing to cover its obligations. As a result, per capita debt in Illinois is the second highest in the nation at nearly $10,000 (NY is number one). And largely because of this high level of debt, Illinois' bond rating is the worst in the nation. Moody's downgraded the state most recently in January of 2012.
In fact, during FY2012, Medicaid was underfunded by $2.1 billion. With the growing pool of patients and a shrinking number of doctors, Obamacare has only proven itself to be nothing more than a politician promising the entire country a new car, but only giving them a set of keys. Real healthcare reform is not expanding insurance while shrinking care and paying back your cronies. Real fiscal reform is not seeking federal dollars as a stopgap measure for a county and state budget drowning in debt.

Crossposted here and here

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