GOP Pursues Congressional Oversight Approach To Target ACA
House Republicans this week plan to hold several hearings on the Affordable Care Act, including two on the development of HealthCare.gov and the safety of the consumers' data in the federal health insurance exchange, The Hill's "Floor Action" reports (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action," The Hill, 11/8).
The hearings are part of the GOP's broader strategy to draw attention to the flaws of the ACA. Since the Oct. 1 launch of the exchanges, Congress has held five hearings to examine the issues.
According to USA Today, the GOP believes that its congressional oversight approach has been more effective than previous strategies, including holding votes to repeal all or part of the ACA, supporting court challenges against the law, elections and the federal shutdown plan (Korte, USA Today, 11/11).
Among the hearings scheduled this week include:
- A House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Wednesday, about HealthCare.gov's technical issues;
- A House Homeland Security Committee hearing on Wednesday, which is expected to focus on the security of data entered into the problem-plagued website;
- A House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing, titled "ObamaCare Implementation Problems: More than Just a Broken Website;" and
- A House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on Thursday, titled "The Effects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on Schools, Colleges, and Universities" ("Floor Action," The Hill, 11/8).
Issa Subpoena's U.S. Chief CTO
In related news, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Friday subpoenaed U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park to testify before his committee's hearing on Wednesday, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
The subpoena came after the White House twice denied Issa's request that Park attend the hearing (Shabad , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/8).
On Thursday, Issa announced the Nov. 13 hearing and named several White House officials who would testify before the committee, including:
- White House Office of Management and Budget Chief Information Officer Steve VanRoekel;
- CMS Deputy Chief Information Officer Henry Chao;
- HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Information Technology Frank Baitman; and
- David Powner, director of IT management issues at the Government Accountability Office (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/7).
That same day, Issa received a letter stating that Park would not be able to testify because he is busy fixing the federal exchange website. In the letter, Donna Pignatelli -- assistant director for legislative affairs at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy -- wrote that Park's "testimony needs to be scheduled at a time that is less disruptive to that work." She added that Park is open to meeting with the committee informally at the end of November and would be able to testify at a hearing during the first two weeks of December (Van Hall, Reuters, 11/8).
However, Issa rejected the offer and sent another letter urging Park to reconsider or he would be forced to issue a subpoena.
In a follow-up response Friday, Pignatelli criticized Issa for his subpoena threat. She wrote, "You explained that the [Oversight and Government Reform Committee] feels it has a duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch, but conspicuously absent from your letter was any statement or justification that would explain the legislative need to compel Mr. Park to appear next week as opposed to a few weeks from now" (Shabad , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/8).
Later that evening, Issa sent a second letter -- along with the subpoena for Park's testimony -- stating, "Given your continued unwillingness to appear voluntarily next week, I am left with no choice but to compel your appearance" (Shabad , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/8).
White House Calls Subpoena 'Unnecessary'
The White House on Friday called the subpoena "unfortunate and unnecessary," reiterating that Park is busy fixing HealthCare.gov, the Los Angeles Times' "Politics Now" reports (Hennessey, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 11/9).
Rick Weiss, a spokesperson for Pignatelli's office, said, "We had hoped the committee would work with us to find an alternative date to give Todd time to focus on the immediate task at hand: getting the website fixed." Weiss added that the Science and Technology Office is reviewing the subpoena and "will respond as appropriate" (Rampton, Reuters, 11/8).
Cummings Slams Issa
Meanwhile, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) -- the ranking Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee -- on Friday sent a letter to Issa asking him to apologize to White House press secretary Jay Carney and Park for comments he made on Fox News Thursday, "Healthwatch" reports.
During the interview, Issa said that Park engaged in "a pattern of interference and false statements" about HealthCare.gov and that "Carney is paid to say things that just aren't so" (Shabad , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/8).
In his letter, Cummings stated that the committee interviewed Chao on Nov. 1, during which Chao said the website's capacity was between 48,000 to 58,000 users, not 1,100, as documents released by Issa indicated was the maximum the website could handle the day before it launched (Howell, Washington Times, 11/8).
Referring to Issa, Cummings wrote, "This is not the first time you have accused a White House official of being a 'paid liar,' a practice that several of your Republican colleagues have condemned," adding, "Given that your staff participated in Mr. Chao's transcribed interview last week ... it is unclear why you did not disclose the information Mr. Chao provided, but instead chose to accuse Mr. Park and Mr. Carney of misleading the American people" (Shabad , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/8).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.