Energy & Commerce Committee Seeks Documents on Secret White House Health Care Negotiations

February 18, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today sent a letter to Deputy White House Chief of Staff Nancy-Ann DeParle calling for the release of documents and information regarding closed-door negotiations between the Obama administration and various industries and special interests as the health care law was being developed. The document request intends to shine light on a process that was largely closed to Congress and members of the public despite the significant financial interests of involved parties and the far-reaching consequences of the resulting policy.

Today's letter to the White House was sent by Chairman Fred Upton, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns, and the Health Subcommittee's Chairman Joe Pitts and Vice Chairman Dr. Michael Burgess. The inquiry focuses on DeParle's prior work as the head of the White House Office for Health Reform (WHOHR), the office that President Obama described as the leader for the federal government's comprehensive effort to pass health care legislation.

"The President promised many times during the 2008 presidential campaign that the meetings and debates on health care legislation would be broadcast to the public, and once in office he promised to run the most open and transparent administration in history. As Members of Congress who were prevented from participating in a free and open debate on the enactment of PPACA, however, we believe that these promises were not upheld in any meaningful way," the members wrote.

"Prior to passage of PPACA, in fact, a number of press accounts detailed the many non-public meetings that apparently took place between representatives of the Administration and outside interest groups. We are troubled by the secret negotiations which apparently took place between the WHOHR and outside interest groups, especially given the specific promises of transparency regarding health care reform," the members continued. "We write to you today in the hope that the Administration will belatedly uphold the President's promise of transparency."

The Energy and Commerce Committee has sent a series of inquiries this year to the Department of Health and Human Services in an effort to resolve continued unanswered questions about the health care law, which appears both fiscally and practically untenable based on shifting cost assumptions and widespread contradictions between the promises on which the law was based and the reality of its implementation. Recent inquiries include an examination of the significant number of waivers handed out to shield states and organizations from the law's mandates; questions about significantly lower than projected enrollment and interest in the costly new federal program for individuals with pre-existing conditions; and a review of the significant taxpayer dollars made available for implementation of the law with no clear guidance on how they were to be spent.

The full text of the letter sent today is available online here.

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