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Bachmann Falsely Claims Billions Were 'Hidden' in Health Care Reform

March 10, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Almost a year after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law, the misinformation campaign about what’s in it just won’t stop. The most recent example is from Rep. Michelle Bachmann [R, MN-6], who claims that the Democrats snuck more than a hundred billion dollars in the bill and passed it secretly without public review. But Bachmann’s either lying or she has no idea what she’s talking about because her claims are just flat-out false.

Her comments came during an appearence on Meet the Press. Here’s what she said:

There was a Congressional Research Service report that just was issued in February, and we discovered that secretly, unbeknownst to members of Congress, over $105 billion was hidden in the Obamacare legislation to fund the implementation of Obamacare.  This is something that wasn’t known. This money was broken up, hidden in various parts of the bills.

The CRS report she’s referring to runs down all of the mandated appropriations and fund transfers in the law. This is money that was provided by the bill so the government could begin implementing parts of it right away — stuff like a temporary insurance program for people with pre-existing conditions and setting up the state-based exchanges that will make it easier for consumer to compare different insurance options.

Far from being hidden, all you have to do to see these funds in the bill is run a find-text page search for on the legislative text for terms like “appropriated” or “transferred” and you’ll see it. For example, here’s what the first item listed in the CRS report, appropriations for states to improve insurance consumer information, looks like in the bill:

(1) INITIAL FUNDING. There is hereby appropriated to the Secretary, out of any funds in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, $30,000,000 for the first fiscal year for which this section applies to carry out this section. Such amount shall remain available without fiscal year limitation.

(2) AUTHORIZATION FOR SUBSEQUENT YEARS. There is authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary for each fiscal year following the fiscal year described in paragraph (1), such sums as may be necessary to carry out this section.

You can read it in context here.

As you can see, there’s nothing hidden about this. It doesn’t take a lawyer to understand that this language is appropriating funds. Any lay person could tell you what this provision does, let alone any member of Congress whose job is to know how to read this stuff. More than 2 million people managed to use OpenCongress to read the health care bill before it was passed by Congress. Besides the extraordinary length of the bill, there was nothing preventing Bachmann or anyone else from looking at what kind of money was going to be made available by the bill. Every version of the bill was publicly available online for at least 72 hours before votes (which, btw, was one of the first uses of the 72-hour rule that the Republicans have now made an official House rule) and the 85%-similar original bill, H.R.3200, was online for more than 6 months before any votes took place.

People reviewing this legislation have known about these funds all along. For example, when the Congressional Budget Office prepared its report showing that the bill would reduce the deficit by $131 billion over a ten year period, the mandated appropriations and fund transfers were factored in.

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