House GOP Expands Investigation of Sebelius’ ACA Donation Requests
On Friday, House Republicans expanded an investigation into HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' requests for private donations to Enroll America, a group tasked with implementing and raising awareness about the Affordable Care Act, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 5/24).
Faced with lower-than-expected funding to implement the ACA, Sebelius since March has been soliciting donations for Enroll America from industry executives, community organizations and church groups. The donation requests were confirmed in May by an HHS official and an industry representative familiar with Sebelius' actions. An HHS spokesperson said that Sebelius' actions are not illegal or improper, noting that she has not made fundraising requests to groups regulated by the department (California Healthline, 5/13).
Details of Investigation
Earlier this month, GOP leaders sent aÂ letterÂ to the Government Accountability Office with a formal request to investigate Sebelius' requests for donations. In addition, Senate and House Republicans sent numerous letters to Sebelius, Enroll America and a dozen insurers seeking details about their financial contributions and roles in the campaign.
On Friday, House Energy and Commerce Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and other Republican members of the panel sent letters to America's Health Insurance Plans, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, and CareFirst Blue Cross and Blue Shield, asking whether Sebelius or her staff has contacted the organizations about donations. The letters also requested that the insurers provide all information related to any meetings at the White House concerning the ACA (Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 5/24).
In the letters, Upton suggested that Sebelius' solicitations represent a conflict of interest, noting that "HHS regulation of the health insurance industry will only grow under [health care reform], including by approving health insurers to participate in the exchanges."
The letters ask the companies to submit any internal communications about relevant conversations by June 11.
Sebelius Facing Growing Criticism, Receiving Some Support
In related news, Sebelius is facing growing criticism from both GOP and Democratic lawmakers as her agency continues to implement the ACA, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
For example, one Democratic lawmaker noted that Sebelius "has been terribly defensive, terribly slow to react" and added that there have been "many conversations among progressives about this" since "any more defensiveness" will make the ACA a "huge issue in 2014."However, others have defended her implementation and her "measured" response to allegations about the donation requests. For example, former CMS Administrator Tom Scully said, "I can't fault [Sebelius]. It's easy to pick on what she's done. A lot of people will throw grenades, and she had to catch them all" (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 5/27). 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.