GOP Leaders Expand Probe Into Sebelius’ ACA Fundraising Efforts
On Tuesday, Republicans leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee further expanded their investigation into HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' requests for private donations to a campaign that aims to raise public participation and awareness about the Affordable Care Act, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 6/5).
Last month, the committee's leaders sent letters to Sebelius and more than a dozen insurers and organizations requesting details about their roles and contributions to the campaign.
The committee's investigation comes on the heels of growing Republican-led scrutiny over Sebelius' solicitations for donations to the outreach campaign by Enroll America, a not-for-profit coalition of health reform advocates.
In March, Sebelius began soliciting private donations as HHS faced lower-than-expected funding from Congress to implement the ACA. HHS in April confirmed Sebelius' donation requests, and a spokesperson said her actions are not illegal or improper because she has not made fundraising requests to groups regulated by the department.
In testimony before the House Education and the Workforce Committee on Tuesday, Sebelius defended her actions and confirmed that she had made calls to a total of five companies and organizations on behalf of Enroll America's campaign. She noted that two of the calls -- to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the tax-preparation firm H&R Block -- were to discuss ACA funding but noted that HHS does not regulate either of them.
Sebelius also said that she made calls to three HHS-regulated companies -- Ascension Health, Johnson & Johnson and Kaiser Permanente -- that were informational and not to solicit donations. She did not explicitly ask the three companies to donate money to the Enroll America campaign, but urged them to support the coalition's work, she said.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers in recent weeks have called for formal investigations and made information requests about Sebelius' solicitations (California Healthline, 6/5).
Committee Reaches Out to Two Companies Contacted by Sebelius
House Energy and Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and his deputies previously wrote to Kaiser Permanente about its role in the Enroll America outreach campaign, "Healthwatch" reports.
On Tuesday, the lawmakers sent letters to Ascension and J&J instructing the companies to provide summaries of their communications with Sebelius and other HHS officials, Enroll America and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Nancy-Ann DeParle.
To date, the committee has contacted a total of 17 companies and organizations about their involvement and communications relating to the outreach campaign ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 6/5).
The committee in a statement said its "leaders are especially concerned with agency officials soliciting companies and organizations regulated by the agency" (McLaughlin, "Inside Politics," Washington Times, 6/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.