Thursday, June 6, 2013

I'm from the government, and I'm here to screw you...

In further proof that your government has no interest in "helping" you in any conventional sense of the word, the Obama Administration is finally, after five years of office, acknowledging a limit on its power.  That's right, ladies and gentlemen, today, for the first time ever under the Obama Administration, we at Screed of Momus have uncovered a documented instance of someone in the Obama Administration acknowledging  the law's limit on their power to act.

Are you ready?

The Obama Administration claims that it cannot overcome the Budget Control Act of 2011's limit on its  ability to exempt cancer payments from sequestration cuts that have caused cancer clinics to turn Medicare patients away instead of giving them chemotherapy.  You see, the rate of reimbursement for administering those chemotherapy treatments has been cut from cost plus 6 percent to cost plus 4.3 percent, and so the clinics are doing the only reasonable thing they can do in such an environment: they're taking 0 percent. That's right, they'd rather have nothing rather than something, so Medicare patients with cancer are being turned away when they show up for chemotherapy.  First do no harm, indeed.

Congressional Republicans had hoped that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would use its administrative discretion to exempt the cancer patients from sequestration, but alas, CMS acting administrator Marilyn Tavenner said otherwise in a letter dated June 3:

The Department of Health and Human Services assessed whether the law allows discretion to administer the sequestration reductions in a manner that is different from the across the board approach that has been used to implement it.
We do not believe that we have the authority under the Budget Control Act of 2011 to exempt Medicare payment for Part B drugs. Exemptions from the sequestration are specified in 2 U.S.C. sections 905(g) and (h) and 906(d)(7), which do not encompass payment for Medicare Part B drugs. The Office of Management and Budget memorandums M-13-03 and M-13-06 referenced in your letter pertain to any flexibility regarding the agency's budgetary resources for internal operations such as the hiring of new employees. This is separate from the agency's administration of Medicare payments, which are subject to the sequestration reductions, as noted above.

There you have it, people. The First and Fifth Amendments do not stop the Obama Administration from killing an American citizen in Yemen for exercising his speech in odious ways, even without due process, evidence of criminal activity rising to the level of a capital offense, or an actual conviction, but this Budget Control Act of 2011, on the other hand, will stop the Obama Administration from throwing a lifeline to Medicare cancer patients who paid withholding taxes for decades.  The limits on executive power are sacrosanct, people, and not to be transgressed even if it means denying medical treatment to a cancer patient.

Oh, and the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, the legislation that gave rise to TARP, didn't say anything about using TARP funds to bail out automakers, nor did it rewrite bankruptcy laws to allow secured creditors and their claims to be shoved to the back of the line behind unions so that Fiat and Chrysler could merge, but sequestration is another animal altogether. The Obama Administration finds its hands tied by sequestration, and that's all there is to it.  The law is the law, and it is nothing if not binding on the lawmakers and law enforcers.

Mark June 3rd, 2013 down on your calendars, as the day the Obama Administration found the limits of its power: overcoming sequestration to provide chemotherapy to Medicare cancer patients via an administrative exemption.  They can compel you to pay Medicare withholding, buy private insurance, and even kill you without due process, and they can access your phone records without a warrant, but they cannot exempt you from sequestration in order to ensure that you receive chemotherapy for your cancer if you're a Medicare patient.  Enumerated powers and all that are what they are.

Right.