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GOP Wants States to Pay Back Money That Was Wasted on Failed Obamacare Exchanges


"Where is the money? The money is gone."

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., the Republican Policy Committee chairman, speaks with a reporter as he enters the chamber for the vote on the energy bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, May 12, 2014. A procedural motion to limit debate and send the measure to the Senate floor without amendments fell five votes short of the 60 votes needed for approval after the popular bi-partisan energy efficiency bill was doomed by a GOP amendment to include the Keystone XL oil pipeline in the legislation. (AP Photo) AP Photo

Senate Republicans are demanding that states with failed Obamacare exchanges pay back the federal government any grant money they received to set up those exchanges.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and others proposed the State Exchange Accountability Act, which is a response to recent news that several state-run exchanges are failing around the country. Exchanges in Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada and Oregon are known to have spent a combined $474 million in federal funds on their exchanges, but each of these insurance programs have proven to be a disaster.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., has a new bill that would require states to pay back any federal grant money they used to build Obamacare exchanges that later failed. (AP Photo)

Barrasso said Wednesday that the government has handed out $4.7 billion to help states build their own exchanges. Under his bill, states who end up wasting those grants on failed exchanges would have 10 years to pay the federal government back.

"In one state after another, the state exchanges also have been collapsing and costing taxpayers a fortune," Barrasso said. "What they have done is they have spent a lot of taxpayer money — money Washington sent to them. Where is the money? The money is gone. Their system doesn't work, and now what they want to do is have a fresh start."

"Taxpayers shouldn't have to pay twice for the mistakes of incompetent state bureaucrats who couldn't set up a working health care exchange," he added.

Barrasso blamed Democrats for dumping piles on money on states and giving them the impression that they could spend freely to build their exchange. He said that is partly why state exchanges are failing around the country.

"Democrats told states they could set up these exchanges and Washington would pay the bill," he said. "So some states didn't really care what it cost. They didn't care if the work was being done well or even done at all. As far as they were concerned, don't worry, whether it works or not it is somebody else's money."

He also blasted President Barack Obama for continuing to defend the law despite its glaring problems.

"President Obama says Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud of the law," he said. "I ask the president — is he proud that these Obamacare exchanges are failing all across the country? Are Democrats who voted for this health care law ready to forcefully defend all the taxpayer dollars that we now know have been wasted?"

Earlier this week, Politico reported that Maryland spent $118 million in federal money on an exchange it now plans to scrap. Massachusetts spend $57 million in federal funds, and is asking for more money to fix its broken insurance program.

Nevada spent $51 million in federal funds, and Oregon spend $248 million on an exchange that failed so badly the FBI is investigating it.

Other senators on Barrasso's bill are Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).

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