Dana Milbank on Republicans and Solyndra When solar energy company Solyndra collapsed after receiving federal loan guarantees, it became ammunition for Republicans wanting to "discredit most everything the administration seeks to do," writes Dana Milbank in The Washington Post. Milbank says Solyndra has been invoked by Republican legislators arguing against worker-training benefits, autism research, "disaster relief, cancer treatments, you name it: Solyndra has been an argument against them." Yet it was the George W. Bush administration, Milbank reminds us, that first approved federal loan guarantees for Solyndra, and it was many of the now-critical congressmen and senators who voted for it. Obama still "deserves the black eye that Republicans have given him over the half a billion dollars squandered on the company. But the Republican paternity of the program that birthed Solyndra suggests some skepticism is in order when many of those same Republicans use Solyndra as an example of all that is wrong with Obama's governance." Republican House members like Representative David Dreier originally voted for the bill that went out of its way to ensure Solyndra loan guarantees, and now repeatedly condemn Obama's support for the company. Senator Jim Demint said Solyndra shows the "unintended results when our government tries to pick winners and losers." "That's a valid criticism," Milbank says, "but it would be more valid if DeMint hadn't been a supporter of the loan-guarantee legislation in 2005."
Kathleen Sharp on health care fraud Obama's administration plans to cut $320 billion from projected Medicare and Medicaid growth over 10 years. But before policy makers raise premiums and require the elderly to make copayments for care received at home, writes Kathleen Sharp in The New York Times, they should work at recovering money lost from fraud. "According to some estimates, health care fraud is a $250 billion-a-year industry." "[A] hospital chain can buy drugs at a steep discount and then bill Medicare for high sticker prices. Doctors can bill for procedures that never happened, or for drugs that were supplied to them by pharmaceutical companies free of charge, or pharmaceutical companies can promote a drug for risky, unapproved uses." In 2005, a whistleblower exposed Quest Diagnostics, a chain of medical laboratories, of overcharging a California health care program. Quest settled for $241 million. "Andrew Baker, a health care executive who ran a company acquired by Quest, has accused it of overbilling our national Medicare plan by as much as a billion dollars," Sharp writes. The case was thrown out "for technical reasons" but Baker appealed the dismissal. So far, though, the Justice Department hasn't joined the suit. In fact, the Justice Department "had more than 1,300 whistle-blower cases under investigation" at the beginning of the year. Pharmaceutical companies can currently write off the occasional billion dollar settlements the Justice Department does win as "the cost of doing business," she says. "Health care costs are rising toward unsustainable levels," she writes, "But before we start cutting important programs, let's go after the fraudsters."