Committee Responds to Administration's Refusal to Disclose Closed-Door Health Meetings

March 10, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - Leaders of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee today sent a letter to White House Counsel Robert Bauer, repeating their calls for the White House to release records of closed-door negotiations with special interest groups while writing the health care law. On February 18, 2011, Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA), and Health Subcommittee Vice Chair Michael Burgess (R-TX) wrote to Nancy-Ann DeParle, former head of the White House Office of Health Reform, seeking basic information about that office and the meetings convened with various lobbying groups prior to passage of the health care law. Bauer has declined to cooperate with the committee's request, describing it as too "vast and expensive."

Upton, Stearns, Pitts, and Burgess repeated their call for the White House to cooperate with the committee's request.  In addition to the letter, the leaders issued the following statement today:

"We are both concerned and disappointed by the administration's refusal to provide this valuable information.  The defense that our request is too "˜vast and expensive' seems to indicate that there have been more secret meetings than we originally thought. Our concern is further compounded by recent press reports that the White House held meetings at a Caribou Coffee shop in order to avoid listing visitors on Secret Service logs, which are part of the public record. The secret meetings apparently conducted by the WHOHR are a perfect example of why transparency is so important. 

"The administration promised every American that the reforms would lower premiums, shrink the deficit, and enable anyone who wanted to keep their coverage to do so.  Yet, the Chief Actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has confirmed that it is unlikely that the law will ultimately bring down costs or allow everyone to keep their coverage.

"The administration has had to provide waivers to over 1,000 health plans to protect enrollees from losing their coverage due to the current mandates of the law. These companies needed waivers because they simply could not afford to follow the escalating mandates of the health care law.  What will happen in 2014, when the expensive mandates of the law increase dramatically and waivers are no longer available? The administration does not seem to know, and no real economic analysis appears to have been done. Medicaid spending already consumes nearly a quarter of state budgets and numerous governors have objected to the vast increase in future Medicaid spending mandated by the law.

"While the country struggles through the most severe budget crisis since the Great Depression, the administration insisted on enacting these changes, the largest expansion of Medicaid since its inception.  Two federal judges have ruled a key aspect of the bill -the individual mandates to purchase health insurance -unconstitutional. 

"The administration promised the "˜most transparent presidential administration in history.' It's time they made good on their promise and allowed the American people to know how this massive health care bill really came to pass."

Text of today's letter available HERE.

Text of the committee members' February 18, 2011, letter available HERE.

Text of White House Counsel Robert Bauer response available HERE.

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