*(SAME STUPID REPUBLICAN UPHOLDS OBAMACARE FOR THE SECOND TIME)* John Roberts Authors 6-3 Opinion Upholding Obamacare Subsidies

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 3.09.52 PMBY MARK SHERMAN

(AP) – The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the nationwide tax subsidies under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, in a ruling that preserves health insurance for millions of Americans.

The justices said in a 6-3 ruling that the subsidies that 8.7 million people currently receive to make insurance affordable do not depend on where they live, under the 2010 health care law.

The outcome is the second major victory for Obama in politically charged Supreme Court tests of his most significant domestic achievement.

Chief Justice John Roberts again voted with his liberal colleagues in support of the law. Roberts also was the key vote to uphold the law in 2012. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a dissenter in 2012, was part of the majority on Thursday.

“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

Nationally, 10.2 million people have signed up for health insurance under the Obama health overhaul. That includes the 8.7 million people who are receiving an average subsidy of $272 a month to help pay their insurance premiums.

Of those receiving subsidies, 6.4 million people were at risk of losing that aid because they live in states that did not set up their own health insurance exchanges.

The challenge devised by die-hard opponents of the law, often derided by critics as “Obamacare,” relied on four words — established by the state — in the more than 900-page law.

The law’s opponents argued that the vast majority of people who now get help paying for their insurance premiums are ineligible for their federal tax credits. That is because roughly three dozen states opted against creating their own health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, and instead rely on the federal healthcare.gov to help people find coverage if they don’t get insurance through their jobs or the government.

In the challengers’ view, the phrase “established by the state” demonstrated that subsidies were to be available only available to people in states that set up their own exchanges. Those words cannot refer to exchanges established by the Health and Human Services Department, which oversees healthcare.gov, the opponents argued.

The administration, congressional Democrats and 22 states responded that it would make no sense to construct the law the way its opponents suggested. The idea behind the law’s structure was to decrease the number of uninsured. The law prevents insurers from denying coverage because of “pre-existing” health conditions. It requires almost everyone to be insured and provides financial help to consumers who otherwise would spend too much of their paycheck on their premiums.

The point of the last piece, the subsidies, is to keep enough people in the pool of insured to avoid triggering a so-called death spiral of declining enrollment, a growing proportion of less healthy people and premium increases by insurers.

Several portions of the law indicate that consumers can claim tax credits no matter where they live. No member of Congress said that subsidies would be limited, and several states said in a separate brief to the court that they had no inkling they had to set up their own exchange for their residents to get tax credits.

The 2012 case took place in the midst of Obama’s re-election campaign, when he touted the largest expansion of the social safety net since the advent of Medicare nearly a half-century earlier. But at the time, the benefits of the Affordable Care Act were mostly in the future. Many of its provisions had yet to take effect.

In 2015, the landscape has changed, although the partisan and ideological divisions remain for a law that passed Congress in 2010 with no Republican votes.

The case is King v. Burwell, 14-114.

SUPREMES LOVE OBAMACARE; COURT MOVES LEFT. THANK YOU REPUBLICANS

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 9.29.30 AM

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS NATIONWIDE HEALTH CARE LAW SUBSIDIES

BY MARK SHERMAN

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the nationwide tax subsidies under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, in a ruling that preserves health insurance for millions of Americans.

The justices said in a 6-3 ruling that the subsidies that 8.7 million people currently receive to make insurance affordable do not depend on where they live, under the 2010 health care law.

The outcome is the second major victory for Obama in politically charged Supreme Court tests of his most significant domestic achievement.

Chief Justice John Roberts again voted with his liberal colleagues in support of the law. Roberts also was the key vote to uphold the law in 2012. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a dissenter in 2012, was part of the majority on Thursday.

“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

Nationally, 10.2 million people have signed up for health insurance under the Obama health overhaul. That includes the 8.7 million people who are receiving an average subsidy of $272 a month to help pay their insurance premiums.

Of those receiving subsidies, 6.4 million people were at risk of losing that aid because they live in states that did not set up their own health insurance exchanges.

The challenge devised by die-hard opponents of the law, often derided by critics as “Obamacare,” relied on four words – established by the state – in the more than 900-page law.

The law’s opponents argued that the vast majority of people who now get help paying for their insurance premiums are ineligible for their federal tax credits. That is because roughly three dozen states opted against creating their own health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, and instead rely on the federal healthcare.gov to help people find coverage if they don’t get insurance through their jobs or the government.

In the challengers’ view, the phrase “established by the state” demonstrated that subsidies were to be available only available to people in states that set up their own exchanges. Those words cannot refer to exchanges established by the Health and Human Services Department, which oversees healthcare.gov, the opponents argued.

The administration, congressional Democrats and 22 states responded that it would make no sense to construct the law the way its opponents suggested. The idea behind the law’s structure was to decrease the number of uninsured. The law prevents insurers from denying coverage because of “pre-existing” health conditions. It requires almost everyone to be insured and provides financial help to consumers who otherwise would spend too much of their paycheck on their premiums.

The point of the last piece, the subsidies, is to keep enough people in the pool of insured to avoid triggering a so-called death spiral of declining enrollment, a growing proportion of less healthy people and premium increases by insurers.

Several portions of the law indicate that consumers can claim tax credits no matter where they live. No member of Congress said that subsidies would be limited, and several states said in a separate brief to the court that they had no inkling they had to set up their own exchange for their residents to get tax credits.

The 2012 case took place in the midst of Obama’s re-election campaign, when he touted the largest expansion of the social safety net since the advent of Medicare nearly a half-century earlier. But at the time, the benefits of the Affordable Care Act were mostly in the future. Many of its provisions had yet to take effect.

In 2015, the landscape has changed, although the partisan and ideological divisions remain for a law that passed Congress in 2010 with no Republican votes.

The case is King v. Burwell, 14-114.

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

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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

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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.

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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

ObamaTrade Secrecy: Log of Which Members of Congress Actually Read Bill in Secret Room Also Private

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http://video.breitbart.com/?ndn.trackingGroup=90085&ndn.siteSection=breitbart_nws_us_sty_vmppap&ndn.videoId=29227422&freewheel=90085&sitesection=breitbart_nws_us_sty_vmppap&vid=29227422

Congress is being so secretive about Obamatrade that Congressional authorities are not only keeping the text of President Barack Obama’s various trade deals secret, they’re also keeping the log that lists which members of Congress went to go read the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) private as well.

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which the House may vote on by the end of this week or perhaps early next week, would fast-track the approval of the TPP and at least two other international trade agreements that President Obama’s administration is working on. Those are the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) with 24 separate parties, mostly other countries but also including the European Union, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) deal.

House GOP leadership has been having a difficult time rounding up enough support to pass Obamatrade, and more and more members keep coming out against it. In fact, a spokesman for Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA)62%
confirmed to Breitbart News on Wednesday morning that he is leaning “no” on Obamatrade, and on Tuesday a litany of other members—including Reps. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL)53%
, Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA)50%
and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ)80%
—came out against it too.

TiSA and T-TIP text are not currently available for members of Congress to read, even in a secret room, but TPP text is available for members to read. Only members of Congress are allowed in the room, and in some cases they’re allowed to take certain staffers with enough security clearances. No notes are allowed to be taken out of the room, and members aren’t legally allowed to publicly discuss the specifics of what they’ve seen or read.

A log inside the secret room is kept listing any members who go read the TPP text, but Breitbart News can confirm that the log listing the senators who have actually read what they’re about to vote on is also kept secret from the public. That means Americans have no way of knowing—outside of their members of Congress confirming publicly they’ve visited the room to read the TPP text—whether their members of Congress have any clue what it is they are voting on.

Breitbart News confirmed neither the public nor the press are privy to secret logs keeping record of which Senators and Congressmen read the deal.

As Breitbart News previously reported, a vote in favor of TPA, which gives the president fast-track authority, is essentially a vote for the TPP and the other two deals because in the past 40 years no trade agreement that received fast track authority has ever been stopped by Congress.

The private text from parts of the TPP is being kept in the Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Room for the Senate. The Senate Security Office keeps track of the secret log, according to a senate staffer.

However, Breitbart News called the Senate Security Office, which then directed the call to the Executive Office for the Secretary of the Senate. Eventually the Executive Office for the Secretary of the Senate told Breitbart News all information relevant to senate security practices would not be given to the media or to the public.

So – in effect – what this means, is that “we the people” have no way to verify if Senators have actually read the released part of the trade agreement before granting Obama fast-track authority to complete it.

The same is expected to be true for members in the House of Representatives.

Breitbart News spoke with an official from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who indicated there is part of the TPP being kept in a secured room for House members to review.

However, according to Jack Langer, spokesperson for committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)54%
, if members of the House of Representatives wish to review the TPP, they must contact the United States Trade Representative.

Breitbart News followed up with the United States Trade Representative who said it does keep the text available for members of Congress, but that the administration does not keep an official log.

However, as in the Senate, there is a security office within the House that is likely keeping a secret log.

Breitbart News contacted the House Sergeant of Arms, which oversees House security multiple times for confirmation on whether or not it is keeping a secret log. However, calls and emails were not returned.

Breitbart News’ Matthew Boyle contributed to this report.

Congress plots to pay for a trade deal by raiding Medicare

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 11.26.02 AMBY MICHAEL HILTZIK

Medicare means many things to many people. To seniors, it’s a program providing good, low-cost healthcare at a stage in life when it’s most needed.

To Congress, it’s beginning to look more like a piggy bank to be raided.

That’s the only conclusion one can draw from a provision slipped into a measure to extend and increase the government’s Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides assistance to workers who lose their jobs because of trade deals. The measure, introduced by Rep. David Reichert (R-Wash.), proposes covering some of the $2.7-billion cost of the extension by slicing $700 million out of doctor and hospital reimbursements for Medicare.

I’d characterize this as money stolen from Medicare.
– Max Richtman, CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare
The plan on Capitol Hill is to move the Trade Assistance Program expansion in tandem with fast-track approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, possibly as early as this week. We explained earlier the dangers of the fast-track approval of this immense and largely secret trade deal. But the linkage with the assistance program adds a new layer of political connivance: Congressional Democrats demanded the expansion of the Trade Assistance Program, Congressional Republicans apparently found the money in Medicare, and the Obama White House, which should be howling in protest, has remained silent.

Medicare advocates have taken up the slack by raising the alarm. “To take this cut and apply it to something completely unrelated sets a terrible precedent,” Max Richtman, head of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, told me.

It’s proper to place this situation in the context of Washington fiscal politics. The Medicare cut is slated to go into effect in fiscal 2024, which gives it the flavor of a budget gimmick. The chances are good that lawmakers will revisit the cut long before it goes into effect–and the budget landscape a decade from now is certain to look very different from today’s. The $700 million cut is the equivalent of about 14 hundredths of one percent of Medicare’s budget today ($500 billion).

That said, Richtman and other advocates are right to do what they can to keep these crucial social programs walled off from debates over unrelated programs.
The Medicare provision came up so recently that members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are just now gearing up to oppose it. “It was sort of buried” in the bill, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the caucus co-chair, told me Monday. The caucus expects to circulate a letter opposing the arrangement as soon as later this week. Ellison, an opponent of granting fast-track authority on the TPP, says the Medicare cut amounts to piling the costs of trade liberalization onto its victims.

“There will be fabulous wealth generated by the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” he says. “The people who are hurt shouldn’t have to pay for it with their jobs and then have inadequate Medicare when they get older.”

Ellison labeled the extension of the assistance program a “consolation prize” for those injured by trade deals. But there are grounds to question how much good the Trade Adjustment Assistance actually does.
Some of its benefits are direct. The program extends unemployment benefits for workers laid off because of competition from international trade and subsidizes their healthcare insurance. It funds job retraining programs and subsidizes job searches. Older workers can get limited “wage insurance” covering a portion of any wage reductions they suffer in moving to new jobs.

But in a 2008 study, Kara M. Reynolds of American University and her associate John S. Palatucci found that workers receiving trade assistance did scarcely better than other laid-off workers at finding new employment — and that they earned on average 30% less at their new jobs, compared with the roughly 10% pay cut faced by unassisted workers.

One reason, they posited, is that the workers in the trade program were in worse-hit industries and were trying to replace relatively high wages. But taking advantage of job training also kept them out of the workforce longer, which may have made them less desirable to employers.
The Medicare cut is designed as an extension to the 2011 sequester, an economically damaging bit of fiscal hugger-mugger Congress devised as a route out of an impasse over the federal debt limit. Medicare was relatively but not entirely unscathed by the sequester: much of the program was exempted from cuts, though provider reimbursements were pared by 2% each year through 2023. Last year, the Medicare sequester was extended into 2024 to cover a reversal of cost-of-living cuts to veterans’ pension benefits — another case of raiding Medicare for an unrelated program. The new proposal cuts Medicare provider benefits by another quarter of a percentage point from October 2024 through March 2025.

This is different from the $700-billion cost reduction in Medicare enacted via the Affordable Care Act. That includes efforts to make the program more efficient by improving the incentives governing how doctors and hospitals deliver care to their patients, along with reductions in payments to Medicare Advantage plans. Richtman points out that much of this amounts to a reallocation within Medicare — “it’s piled back into the program by paying for improvements in preventive care, closing the ‘doughnut’ hole in Medicare Part D (the prescription drug benefit)” and other measures. In the broadest sense, the cost reductions in Medicare are netted against other healthcare costs within the Affordable Care Act.

By contrast, the new proposal would take $700 million out of Medicare, period. Nothing in the TAA will help Medicare function better or augment its services to members. Slicing into physician and hospital reimbursements may have the opposite effect, by reducing members’ access to care. “I’d characterize this as money stolen from Medicare,” Richtman says. Budget experts observe that the Trade Adjustment Assistance program does include subsidies for displaced workers’ health coverage, but there’s very little overlap between Medicare enrollees and the working population served by the TAA.
The greater danger is that Congress gets addicted to looking to Medicare for spare cash. Richtman and other social insurance advocates have grown accustomed to keeping their eyes on efforts in Medicare legislation to tamper with the program’s benefits and finances; now they have to watch out for raids from all directions.

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

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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.