CAGW Names Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) November Porker of the Month

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) its November Porker of the Month for his absurd attack on government watchdogs who discovered gaping holes in Obamacare’s enrollment verification system.

In 2014, at the request of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) began testing the verification system by creating 12 fake identities and attempting to obtain coverage through the federal Exchange.  The GAO published the full results on July 22, 2014, and revealed that 11 of the 12 fake applicants were each able to qualify and receive $2,500 worth of subsidized coverage, even though they had used forged documentation for proof of income or citizenship.  On July 16, 2015, a follow-up GAO investigation found that all 11 fake applicants were automatically re-enrolled for the next year.  Six of the 11 were temporarily cancelled based on new information, but five of those six were able to apply for reinstatement and successfully reacquired their coverage.  Such “secret shopper” investigations are a common practice to test verification systems in order to determine if they are subject to waste and mismanagement.

After finding these gaping holes in the federal Exchange, GAO released preliminary findings on October 23, 2015, during testimony before the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, of how 10 new “secret shoppers” were able to obtain coverage in the federal marketplace from New Jersey and North Dakota, and from the California and Kentucky state exchanges.  GAO found that, “although 8 of these10 fictitious applications failed the initial identity-checking process, all 10 were subsequently approved by the federal Marketplace or the selected state marketplaces.”  Four of the approved fake applicants used Social Security numbers that were never issued, such as ones beginning with “000.” 

While taxpayers and most members of the Energy and Commerce Committee greeted GAO’s efforts with admiration and disgust at the failure of the Obamacare verification system, the committee’s Ranking Member, Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), had the opposite reaction during the October 23 hearing.  His ire toward the GAO investigators themselves was evident when he said, “For you to spend your time and your effort, taxpayer money, in trying to make it more difficult [to get coverage] or trying to highlight the difficulties, I just don’t understand,” he said.  He went on to unfairly smear the investigators as partisan attack dogs and claimed that exposing fraud “is just not a priority.”  Apparently, Rep. Pallone, who is a longstanding member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, has either forgotten or no longer cares that GAO’s mission is “to support the Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people.”  And if he had another or better method to test the accuracy of the verification system, he did not express it at the hearing.   

CAGW President Tom Schatz said, “The GAO should be applauded for their work to expose waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government.  Rep. Pallone’s shameful attacks are not only false, they are an insult to every taxpayer who expects his or her money to be used wisely and thriftily.  Comments like these are prime examples of why Congress has abysmal approval ratings.”

For his reprehensible and erroneous attack on the investigators who exposed more examples of Obamacare’s vast flaws, CAGW names Rep. Frank Pallone its November 2015 Porker of the Month.

Citizens Against Government Waste is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.  Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.

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