Where did billions in Obamacare grants go?

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.01.40 AM

BY ROBERT KING

The federal government and the states have no idea what happened to billions of dollars given to create Obamacare’s exchanges, according to a federal watchdog.

The Government Accountability Office charged the Obama administration and many state-run healthcare exchanges with not adequately tracking federal funding, according to a report in the libertarian Reason magazine on Monday.

The GAO report, which is still in draft form, comes as the administration is taking heat for not properly screening fake Obamacare applications.

The watchdog’s latest finding focuses on grant funding for state-run marketplaces from September 2010 to March 2015, Reason reported.

Neither the states examined by the GAO nor the administration detailed how grant funding for information-technology projects was spent.

Also, the states and the administration didn’t track how much of $2.78 billion in Medicaid matching funds was used to fund exchange operations or development, according to Reason, which did not name the states implicated in the draft report.

The draft report appears to lay the blame on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which manages Obamacare.

“Rather than require states to report spending on specific products, CMS required states running their own exchanges to report spending on five general categories — IT contracts, IT consultants, IT personnel, IT equipment and IT supplies,” Reason’s report said. “The vast majority of the grant money went to contracts for services like ‘systems integration, project management, and independent validation and verifications.'”

The report’s findings are the latest problem to bubble up over the management of Obamacare. Last week, the GAO found that 11 fake applications were re-enrolled in Obamacare earlier this year and continued to get subsidies. The applications were re-enrolled without new documentation.

Opponents of the healthcare law said the latest findings are indicative of rampant mismanagement with the program, while supporters countered that the GAO’s undercover investigation isn’t complete.

The management of funding for exchanges is the subject of a hearing scheduled for Friday by a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Fake applicants kept ObamaCare coverage, watchdog finds
TheHill.coM

Mark Levin : Numbers You Hear on Immigration are a Lie

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 11.15.37 AM

Conservative talk radio host and scholar Mark Levin called in to Breitbart News Sunday and blasted “criminal politicians” on both sides of the aisle who keep praising illegal immigrants. Levin emphatically stressed that Republican voters must reject presidential candidates who will not block the left from enacting their radical goals.

Levin, whose new book Plunder and Deceit will be published next month, told host and Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon in a wide-ranging interview that conservatives “cannot accept” in this election cycle any candidate who “just wants to get along, show that they can manage” America’s decline.

“We want to elect the most conservative person we can, not [someone] who’s going to support Common Core, who’s going to tell us we have to figure out how to get around the base,” Levin said, in reference to Jeb Bush’s remarks about the need to “lose the primary to win the general” election.

Levin, who is one of the intellectual leaders of the conservative movement, said conservatives need a nominee who “believes in American sovereignty and talks about the Constitution.” He said there are only four or five of those candidates in the field, and “those are the guys I’m going to promote as time goes on.”

Such a candidate will of course be hated by the Republican establishment and their preferred establishment pundits. Levin said, “Virtually every commentator on Fox is going to trash them.”

He added that anti-establishment conservative candidates will also be trashed by “a lot of these [center-right] websites where younger guys have now inherited what prior generations have built.”

Though Levin said he had some reservations about some of Donald Trump’s more liberal stances in the past, he appreciates Trump because he forced the media and politicians to discuss illegal immigration. Levin said that people are currently “rallying around Trump because they want a leader” and are just “sick and tired of the phonies.”

Trump is resonating with Americans, especially the so-called “silent majority,” by speaking bluntly about illegal immigration, and Levin also had some politically incorrect points to make on the subject. While listening to Breitbart News Sunday, Levin said he was particularly bothered by the claim—made by politicians on both sides of the aisle—that there are so many so-called “jobs that Americans will not do.” Levin mentioned that, according to the Census, 73% of janitors are American citizens, as are 51% of maids and housekeepers, 58%of taxi drivers, 64% of landscapers, 66% of construction workers, and 72% of bellhops, porters, and concierges.

But the establishment wings of both parties that do not want to control immigration levels never mention these inconvenient facts. Levin also predicted that the current “push by cities to drive up the minimum wage makes it more likely that people are going to hire illegal aliens in order to undercut the wages of Americans who work in these industries.”

“I wanted to mention these jobs because the majority of these manual labor jobs are done by American citizens, and there’d be more but for the fact that the entire pay structure is undermined by the criminals who come into the country and the criminals who hire them and the criminal politicians who keep praising them,” Levin said.

He added that when listening to Jeb Bush, it seems like he believes “Everybody who comes here is better than every American citizen.”

In the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields, Levin mentioned that studies have found that for every two students who gets a STEM degree, only one is hired in a STEM job. He noted that another study has found that 32% of computer science graduates who are not entering the information technology (IT) workforce say it is because IT jobs are not available, while 53% say they found “other job opportunities.”

That is why Levin said it is a lie when Silicon Valley companies lobby Congress for more H-1b visas and claim that they need more “importation of people from other countries.”

“We are literally forcing out American citizens [from both ends of the economic and jobs spectrum],” Levin said. “I’m a free market capitalist, but we don’t have free market capitalism. We have an iron-fisted centralized welfare state.”

Invoking Reagan, Levin said that “Until we have a new Republican party… this is going to continue.”

The talk radio host said conservatives need to be as “aggressive on our side as Obama is on their side” and “take our message, principles to everybody in the country.” He said a candidate who can “articulate our position, who can expose the other side for killing jobs” and explain how the left is “destroying the future for our children and grandchildren” would give Republicans “a fighting chance.” If Republicans nominate a conservative with those qualities, it would be the first time that many Americans get a chance to vote for a true conservative for president.

“If you are under 45, you have never had an opportunity to vote for a conservative for president,” Levin said (Reagan was the GOP’s last true conservative presidential nominee), emphasizing that voting for a real conservative for president is “invigorating, it’s exciting… you would see how people rally to somebody like that.”

But such a candidate will first have to defeat the GOP establishment that often attacks conservatives more than Democrats.

“I want people to also remember that if the Bush family had its way there would have been no Ronald Reagan,” said Levin, who was an official in Reagan’s Justice Department. He emphasized that the establishment Republicans attacking conservatives today “are the same elements who are invested in big government, who are invested in the redistribution of wealth, who are invested in non-conservative principles while they pretend to be otherwise.”

Levin continued to blast today’s Republican party for not being a “free-market capitalist party” and likened the GOP to the Whigs.

“The Republican party is not a conservative party. It’s not a constitutional party,” Levin said. “It’s not the converse of the Democrat party, which makes no excuses. The Democrat party is a socialist party.”

Levin mentioned that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is a socialist and marxist who is backed by the Communist party. He added that Obama is an Alinskyite and emphasized that Hillary Clinton also met with the famous radical Saul Alinsky and was “enamored with him.”

“That’s them,” Levin said of the left. “That’s who they are.”

In contrast, Levin said that “our side” has “useless and pathetic individuals who are assisting the hard radical left to accomplish their goals.”

“Can you tell me what the Republican Party stands for?” Levin asked. “It stands for nothing. It’s biding its time. It’s treading water. When it turns it guns on anybody, it turns its guns on conservatives.”

He mentioned that in contrast to Reagan, who had 78 vetoes or pocket vetoes, Obama has only vetoed four bills, which means the Republican Congress has not sent him a budget or bills related to immigration or Obamacare that Obama did not like.

“The Republicans have accommodated Obama every step of the way,” Levin said. “They won’t even send him a bill to veto.”

Levin said the GOP establishment so frequently attacks conservatives because the GOP’s leaders are “entrenched in Washington, the bureaucracy, the corporatists, and so forth.”

“This Republican party has lurched so far from Reagan. It’s the Bush party… It’s the Rockefeller party. It’s the

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

47%

party. It is the

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

52%

party,” Levin said. “They are bought and paid for by the Chamber of Commerce, by the Silicon Valley and everybody else.”

Explaining how difficult it is to make government more limited and enact reforms, Levin noted that the “federal government is not going to reform itself even if we send the most conservative president,” especially since “One Supreme Court justice can turn the country on its head–and they do it constantly now.” He also said the “massive” and “rogue” federal bureaucracy issues 3,000-6,000 regulations a year, which means thousands of new laws. In addition, Levin said, “Separations of power are meaningless” because “Congress passes bills that are so long they don’t even read them.” Levin also brought up the fact that Obama is using his powers to nationalize millions of acres, “taking them from states and individuals,” by designating them as monuments.

“This is an autocracy,” Levin said. “We are out of control.”

Levin predicted that “Things are really going to get out of hand one of these days” because “financially, there is a point of no return.”

“The laws of economics are like the laws of physics—at some point the politicians won’t be able to fix it even if they want to,” Levin said of the country’s spiraling debt. “I don’t know that we’re there yet, but things are really going to get out of hand one of these days.”

Levin mentioned that the trustees of Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare send letters every year to remind politicians, especially the President of the Senate (Vice President Joe Biden), telling them that “this is unsustainable.” He pointed out, for instance, that the disability insurance for Social Security is set to go bankrupt next year.

“I think it is going to have to get so bad that people are finally going to turn to what the Framers gave us in the Constitution—(Article V convention of the states)—but it may be too late at that point,” Levin said.

In the end, civil disobedience that is peaceful and civil may be the best way for individuals to combat the radical left, especially since they are so willing to use “the government and the instrumentalities of government against us”–like using the law to be lawless and using “the law to protect plunder.”

“We need to become more aggressive both in language [and] in our conduct,” Levin said.

He said he calls for a “new civil rights movement” in his book and chided the left for declaring that “everything they want”—even more big government and redistribution of wealth—is a civil right.

The “real civil rights movement,” according to Levin, “needs to be for liberty and prosperity,” and if Americans “don’t fight for this, we are going to enslave our kids and grandkids… to the worst future imaginable.”

He also said that individuals can decide to engage in acts of civil disobedience on their own. For instance, Levin suggested to college students that “When a marxist professor tells them to do something, do what I did and say, ‘No, I’m not going to do that.’” And unlike the radical left, Levin said, “We’re not going to burn down the administration building or start turning cop cars over and burning down neighborhoods.”

“We need to start making our voices heard everywhere—Hollywood, the media, the classroom,” Levin emphasized. “They are going to have to put up with us whether they like it or not.”

Washington Post Changed Planned Parenthood ‘Organ Harvesting’ Headline To ‘Research’

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.13.10 PM

Newsweek covers for abortionists, saying “there’s more to it than meets the eye”

BY STEVE WATSON

When the shocking video of a Planned Parenthood senior official bragging about organ harvesting from aborted babies went viral yesterday, The Washington Post originally ran the story with the headline containing the words ‘organ harvesting’. However, the headline was altered a short time later, to intimate the official was merely discussing “research”.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.48.43 PM

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.51.41 PM

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.52.24 PM

The story itself was also edited, with body parts like the heart and liver being changed to “tissue,” yet no note was made of any changes by the publication.

The timing of the Washington Post headline change coincided with Planned Parenthood releasing its own spin on the footage, claiming it was “heavily edited” and calling for journalistic “balance”.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.53.17 PM

The Post removed a sentence about the PP official “sipping red wine” while explaining how to preserve the organs of an aborted fetus while “crushing” it. The Post also added the sentence, “In the video, Nucatola appears to allude to methods for carefully extracting the organs.”

Also in the edited version, a whole new paragraph was added about fetal tissue research. “In the 1980s and 1990s, researchers considered fetal tissue transplants a budding treatment for Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. Some believed they held the potential to prevent autism.” the retouched version notes.

The video of Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director for medical services, clearly shows her bragging about how babies are aborted in a specific way so that their body parts and organs can later be sold for profit.

“We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part,” Nucatola said to actors posing as organ traffickers. “I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”

“I’d say a lot of people want liver,” Nucatola continued. “And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance, so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps.”

The sickening footage has prompted Texas governor Greg Abbott to promise a full investigation of the organisation. In a tweet, Abbott noted that he has already sued Planned Parenthood for Medicaid Fraud.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.55.22 PM

The Washington Post wasn’t the only mainstream outlet to temper its coverage of the story. Newsweek was accused of conducting damage control when it began tweeting out a write ups of how “there’s more to [the video] than meets the eye”.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.56.18 PM

Newsweek claimed that “Tissue donation is different than the harvesting of human organs for sale”, and that “due to editing, the context is not entirely clear” in the video.

Several people pointed out that the unedited 3 hour video is even worse than the edited one, and provides all the context needed to understand exactly what Nucatola is referring to – organ harvesting.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.03.05 PM

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.13.10 PM

238,000 US Veterans Died Waiting for Health Care – Leaked Document

Capture

Documents also show poor record keeping at the agency…

A leaked document shows nearly one-third of the 847,000 veterans in the Department of Veteran Affairs’ backlog died while waiting for treatment, amounting to more than 238,000 patients, according to documents obtained by the Huffington Post.

The VA maintains that the number is so large because it has no mechanism to purge the list of dead applicants, and that some of the veterans may have died years ago. VA spokeswoman Walinda Westtold the Huffington Post that some people on the list may never have completed an application, or could be using other insurance.

She said 81 percent of the veterans who come to the VA “have either Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare or some other private insurance,” West said. “Consequently, some in pending stays may have to use other options instead of completing their eligibility application.”

The documents came from a VA program specialist, Scott Davis, who has been a whistleblower on the department’s failings in the past. He disputed West’s answers, saying an incomplete application would not have made it onto the VA’s pending list. He added that the department only began electronic health care enrollment in 1998, and that this was when the backlog began. As for the point about veterans using other insurance, he said that was “immaterial and a farce.”

“VA wants you to believe, by virtue of people being able to get health care elsewhere, it’s not a big deal. But VA is turning away tens of thousands of veterans eligible for health care,” Davis told the Huffington Post. “VA is making it cumbersome, and then saying, ‘See? They didn’t want it anyway.’”

The documents also show poor record keeping at the agency. In one instance, 2.35 million veterans, whose records amounted to about 13.5 percent of the 17.4 million records total, died but did not have their date of death recorded in the enrollment system. Yet dates of death were recorded in a different information database.

Copies of the document have been sent to the House and Senate committees that oversee the VA, as well as the White House.

The VA provides $95 billion worth of entitlements to veterans each year. However, according to the agency’s own figures from 2008, only 36 percent of the 23.4 million military veterans from all wars were receiving benefits and services – about 8.5 million. The benefits and services include healthcare, education and training, disability payments, military pensions to veterans and their surviving spouses, and burial benefits.

The disclosure is the latest controversy to engulf the VA since last summer’s scandal at a Phoenix VA hospital that led to congressional hearings. Then-Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned when it was revealed that about 40 veterans had died waiting for timely access to healthcare.

The VA’s Office of Accountability Review, which was established in 2014 to promote leadership accountability within the department, is currently handling 80 cases, of which 15 involve whistleblower retaliation.

Networks Skip Report Feds Unable to Verify $2.8 Billion in ObamaCare Subsidies

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.58.14 PM

By Curtis Houck | June 16, 2015 | 9:13 PM EDT

The top English and Spanish networks refused on Tuesday evening to cover the findings of a federal audit report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) that concluded that just under $3 billion in ObamaCare subsidies have been unable to be properly verified that, according to the audit, puts taxpayer funding “at risk.”

While English-language networks ABC, CBS, and NBC partnered with Spanish-language networks MundoFox, Telemundo and Univision to ignore this story, the Fox News Channel (FNC) program Special Report devoted a one-minute-and-48-second segment to the IG’s findings.

Fill-in anchor Doug McKelway pointed out that the report comes as “we await a Supreme Court decision that could have a huge impact on ObamaCare” and revealed “just how much confusion the President’s health care law is causing with book keepers.”

In a live shot from the White House, correspondent Kevin Corke explained that the 39-page report contained “a number of recommendations about how to deal with a potential accounting gap between what the administration has been paying insurers under ObamaCare and what it may ultimately end up owing.”

Corke detailed how “[t]he problem actually lies in the healthcare.gov web site and its unfinished back end” where insurers are supposed to “communicate enrollee information with [the] federal government,” but have not been fully able to do so to the tune of “almost $2.8 billion in subsidies or tax credits to insurers in just the first four months of 2014.”

Here’s more from the Washington Free Beacon’s (and MRC alum) Elizabeth Harrington:

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released an audit Tuesday finding that the agency did not have an internal system to ensure that subsidies went to the right enrollees, or in the correct amounts.

“[The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] CMS’s internal controls did not effectively ensure the accuracy of nearly $2.8 billion in aggregate financial assistance payments made to insurance companies under the Affordable Care Act during the first four months that these payments were made,” the OIG said.

“CMS’s system of internal controls could not ensure that CMS made correct financial assistance payments,” they said.

The OIG reviewed subsidies paid to insurance companies between January and April 2014. The audit found that CMS did not have a process to “prevent or detect any possible substantial errors” in subsidy payments.

The OIG said the agency did not have a system to “ensure that financial assistance payments were made on behalf of confirmed enrollees and in the correct amounts.”

Instead of covering this troubling development, ABC’s World News Tonight devoted one minute and 16 seconds over the course a tease and full report previewing game six of the NBA Finals and showing video of Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James when he was 16 years old.

DOUG MCKELWAY: As we await a Supreme Court decision that could have a huge impact on ObamaCare, new information on just how much confusion the President’s health care law is causing with book keepers. Correspondent Kevin Corke is at the White House tonight. Good evening, Kevin.

KEVIN CORKE: Hey Doug, good evening to you. The IG report, the Inspector General’s report, is 39-pages-long and in it are a number of recommendations about how to deal with a potential accounting gap between what the administration has been paying insurers under ObamaCare and what it may ultimately end up owing. Now, here’s how it works. The problem actually lies in the healthcare.gov web site and its unfinished back end. That’s the part of the website that allows insurers to communicate enrollee information with federal government, you know, offices, but the problem is it simply hasn’t been completed and so, that means we don’t know how bad is. I mean, the fact is it was even worse back when ObamaCare rolled out back in 2014 and just to give you an idea of the scope we’re dealing with here, the IG reported that the government doled out almost $2.8 billion in subsidies or tax credits to insurers in just the first four months of 2014, back when ObamaCare launched.

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST: The administration takes very seriously the mandate that we have to both be good stewards of taxpayer dollars but also make sure that those citizens across the country who qualified for subsidies that make their health care more affordable, that they get that tax credit.

CORKE: Meanwhile, the HHS is also weighing in on this. Communications Director Megan Smith saying, quote, “we are committed to continuing to improve our processes and will work with the inspector general to implement their recommendations.” Now, we are also told tonight, Doug, that the site review is ongoing and as for that back end fix? They say it is in the works. Back to you.

MCKELWAY: Kevin Corke on the North Lawn. Thank you, Kevin.

– See more at: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/curtis-houck/2015/06/16/networks-skip-report-feds-unable-verify-28-billion-obamacare-subsidies#sthash.tVCGMmep.dpuf

Obama Admin Making Billions In Obamacare Subsidy Payments Without Verifying Amounts

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 3.15.57 PM

SARAH HURTUBISE

Reporter

The Obama administration is making billions in payments to health insurers under Obamacare without calculating the exact amount companies are owed, according to a federal audit released Tuesday.

Obamacare’s premium subsidies are paid each month directly to insurance companies, to ease the burden of health coverage to eligible customers in the health law’s government exchanges. The payments add up: the federal government doled out almost $2.8 billion to insurers in just the first four months of 2014, when Obamacare launched.

The agency tasked with making the payments hasn’t yet made sure the calculations behind the billions are accurate. An inspector general audit of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has found that the administration did not confirm the exact amount it owed each insurer before paying up, putting the billions in federal taxpayer funds at risk.

The problem lies in HealthCare.gov’s unfinished back-end system. The portions of the website which allow insurers to communicate enrollee information with the federal government hasn’t yet been completed and was even less workable in 2014, when the outlays began.

“Because CMS has not developed the systems to obtain enrollment and payment information on an enrollee-by-enrollee basis, CMS cannot verify the accuracy of the nearly $2.8 billion it authorized for financial assistance payments during our audit period,” the Health and Human Services inspector general report concluded. “Without effective internal controls…a significant amount of Federal funds are at risk.”

That means sensitive information about the customers who are receiving the subsidies wasn’t up to date before CMS began to make the payments. Insurers instead estimated claims to the federal government, without exact data on the number of exchange enrollees and whether those customers were up-to-date on paying their portion of the premiums themselves.

The administration has said that HealthCare.gov’s back-end system went through a reboot before the start of the second open enrollment period, but still isn’t complete. Federal officials don’t expect the system to be fully finished until the end of 2015, according to The Wall Street Journal, potentially putting taxpayer dollars at risk for two years of Obamacare’s operation.

The audit examined only the first four months of 2014. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that federal spending on Obamacare subsidies will reach $726 billion between 2015 and 2024.

Mobile_Inline

Premium subsidies are paid in advance to insurers as a form of tax credit for customers. Even once insurers are able to submit current customer information to the federal government, the accuracy of each customer’s subsidy is only verified once individual enrollees file tax returns each April. (RELATED: Obamacare ‘Clawback’ To Hit Some Subsidy Recipients With Huge Tax Bill) 

CMS acting administrator Andy Slavitt said in a response to the audit that a series internal reviews was used to monitor accuracy and that the agency “takes the stewardship of tax dollars seriously.”

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2015/06/16/obama-admin-making-billions-in-obamacare-subsidy-payments-without-verifying-amounts/#ixzz3dG58FQZY

Obamacare Co-ops Use Tax Dollars To Lobby For More Tax Dollars

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 11.41.07 AM

RICHARD POLLOCK

Health Republic Insurance of New York paid K Street lobbyists to help it secure $90 million in federal “solvency funds,” allowing the Obamacare health insurance co-op to stay afloat last year, according to congressional lobbying disclosure records.

Quarterly documents obtained from the clerk of the United States Senate by the Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group show Health Republic paid $180,000 to the lobbying firm of Alston & Bird. The payments were made from early 2014 through the first quarter of this year.

Alston & Bird did not merely lobby Congress, according to the documents.  They also lobbied federal officials at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which manages Obamacare.

Health Republic last year asked CMS to provide an additional $90 million in “solvency funds” to the co-op.  CMS officials approved the request last September, five months after Alston & Bird began their lobbying of agency officials.

Health Republic originally received $265 million in start-up funding in 2012, making it the largest of two dozen health insurance co-ops established under an Obamacare program designed to provide publicly funded competition for private sector health insurance firms. Healthcare reform advocates said the co-ops would offer lower premiums for comparable coverage.

Obamacare health insurance co-ops in Colorado and Michigan also retained lobbyists to influence Congress and executive branch officials, according to Senate documents.

Heading up Health Republic’s Washington lobbying is former U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, a nine-term North Dakota Democrat, who manages the K Street firm’s health care lobby shop.

Bob Siggins, a former long-time congressional staff aide for the congressman and once his chief-of-staff followed Pomeroy to join Alston & Bird.  Siggins also lobbies for Health Republic, according to the documents.IR

Pomeroy claimed his lobbying on behalf of the federally funded co-op was “completely appropriate” and that the lobbying firm continues the work on the co-op’s behalf.

Federal law forbids a recipient of federal funds “to pay any person for influencing or attempting to influence an officer or employee of any agency, a Member of Congress, an officer or employee of Congress, or an employee of a Member of Congress in connection with any federal action.”

CMS stated in its Dec, 13, 2011, final rule governing the co-ops that “no portion of the loans be used for propaganda purposes, attempts to influence legislation, or marketing.”

Federal rules also direct all co-ops to “to use any profits to lower premiums, improve benefits, or for other programs intended to improve the quality of health care delivered to its members.”

Obamacare co-ops like Health Republic rely almost exclusively on tax dollars.  The CMS awarded $2 billion to 24 proposed co-ops in 2012. The money was to be used for start-up costs and insurance capitalization.

Health Republic has filed its tax returns as a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt business league organization, but it and the other Obamacare co-ops also conform to the 501(c)(29) designation established specifically for them. Health Republic filed as a (c)(29) in 2011, but the IRS regulations for the (29) designation – which bar the co-ops from lobbying Congress – weren’t finalized until this year.

The (c)(6) designation permits lobbying, but the funds used for that purpose are not tax-deductible and may be subject to a special tax on the organization.

“If they rely 100% on federal taxpayer dollars, they are prohibited from using those funds to lobby agencies or members of Congress,” said Scott Amey, general counsel of the Project on Government Oversight, a non-profit government watchdog. “Lobbying cannot be paid for with taxpayer dollars.”

Aaron Albright, director of communications at CMS did not respond to repeated DCNF questions about the co-op lobbying.

The National Alliance of State Health CO-OPs, the Obamacare creation’s trade association, also did not respond to DCNF questions about the legality of co-op lobbying.

Many of the Obamacare co-ops have compiled less-than-stellar records, as was predicted by the White House Office of Management and Budget, which projected in 2010 that nearly half of the groups would fail.

The insurance commissioner in Vermont refused to license the Obamacare co-op there in 2013. And the Iowa-Nebraska co-op was dissolved under state receivership early this year.

Health Republic, however, claimed to be among the most successful Obamacare co-ops, capturing one-third of New York’s Obamacare exchange customers.

The co-op was founded by Sara Horowitz, a well-known liberal New York political activist who once worked with then-state senator Barack Obama at a New York think tank partly funded by billionaire George Soros.

Horowitz also was the only individual approved by CMS to launch Obamacare co-ops in three separate states. Her groups received $434 million from CMS to launch co-ops in New York, New Jersey and Oregon.

Despite the substantial federal funding, Health Republic executives discovered last year that they did not have enough capital on hand to meet New York’s capital reserve requirements.

Alston & Bird’s disclosure forms describe the firm’s lobbying of Congress and CMS on behalf of Health Republic for the solvency funds.

According to CMS officials, a request for solvency funds represents a co-op’s attempt to meet “state determined reserve requirements.”

If a co-op’s capital reserves are being depleted too quickly or fall rapidly to unacceptable levels set by insurance regulators, there may be a need for the additional funds.

It is unclear what went wrong at Health Republic last year.  However, Horowitz ran another non-profit health insurance company in New York called Freelancers Insurance, which she closed in 2014.

The New York Department of Financial Services ranked Freelancers among the poorest insurers in the state, placing 31st among 34 insurers in the number of complaints received by state officials in 2013, it’s last full year in operation. Freelancers also had the highest reversal rate for grievances filed by doctors, hospitals and other medical providers.

Thomas Miller, a health expert and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute said Health Republic’s decision to hire a high-priced lobbying firm indicates “they were pulling out all of the stops.”

The request for solvency funds is “a warning sign not only that they’re having trouble right now but it’s a preview of what would be a continuing chronic future.”  He said, “they’re simply throwing more good money after bad.”

Consumer Mutual Insurance of Michigan reported paying $13,000 in lobbying fees to MJ Capitol Consulting.  The Michigan co-op received $71 million in CMS funding and also sought solvency funding but did not get it.

The Colorado Health Insurance Cooperative received $72 million from CMS and paid $20,000 this year to Thorn Run Partners for unspecified lobbying on “issues relating to CO-OPs.”

Spokesmen for the Colorado and Michigan co-ops did not respond to DCNF calls.