Committee Letters to Various Administration Officials Regarding the Health Care Law Remain Unanswered
Over the past several months, Energy and Commerce Committee leaders have sent numerous letters to the Obama administration regarding concerns surrounding the implementation and effects of the health care law. Despite the administration’s assertions that the health care law is finished business, these important questions remain unanswered. The American people understand that the reality of this law’s costly consequences is much different than the one celebrated by the White House and its Hollywood allies.
What else is the administration going to delay or change without consulting Congress or being transparent with the American people?
In a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew following the second delay of the employer mandate, committee leaders wrote, “Since the passage of the law, the administration has delayed numerous deadlines and effective dates set forth in the statue. These delay announcements have only increased with the failed launch of the HealthCare.gov website.”
Unilateral delays and changes to the health care law have become commonplace. The administration has taken whatever steps it has found necessary to alter its signature legislative achievement, regardless of the consequences or legal authority to do so. Committee members repeatedly pressed Secretary Sebelius, asking what future delays or changes were in store, but each time she avoided a straightforward answer. On December 31, 2013, she told Fox News that she did not anticipate any future changes, but the administrative actions have continued to pile up since then.
Enrollment questions: Who has paid? Who was previously uninsured?
Just days after the start of open enrollment, committee leaders began asking the administration for specifics regarding enrollment. But for months the administration stonewalled committee requests and repeated inquiries from the press, suggesting that only the insurance providers had that data. In the quest for transparency and a complete picture of this law, committee leaders sent letters to every insurance provider participating in the federally facilitated marketplaces requesting that data. As of April 15, the committee learned that only 67 percent of those who had chosen a plan on the FFM had paid their first month’s premiums. The committee has requested an update to these figures by May 20. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney rejected the committee’s data but refused to provide any details, saying, “We don’t have hard, concrete numbers, but we dispute them.” The administration has also refused to detail how many Medicaid enrollees are newly eligible.
What will premiums look like next year?
Committee leaders recently requested premium information from some of the nation’s largest insurance providers.
How many plan cancellations loom?
More than 6 million people have already felt the effect of the president’s broken promise and received a cancellation notice from their insurance provider. A recent hearing confirmed that these plans were cancelled as a direct result of the law’s mandates, and warned that more cancellation notices are expected in the coming months and years.
HealthCare.gov… Is it complete? Is it secure?
The committee uncovered at a hearing in November that the backend of the exchanges had yet to be built. Despite repeated declarations from President Obama and other supporters of the law that the website was “fixed” and everything was “working the way it is supposed to,” insurance providers recently confirmed that this work is still not complete, and it will cost taxpayers at least another $121 million to finish that task. The Washington Post adds, “The government may be paying incorrect subsidies to more than 1 million Americans for their health plans in the new federal insurance marketplace and has been unable so far to fix the errors.” Additionally, the committee’s investigation raised serious concerns regarding the security of HealthCare.gov.
Committee leaders sent a letter to Accenture shortly after the company won the contract to oversee HealthCare.gov and the federally facilitated marketplaces and remains in communication with the company regarding the status of their work and communication with the administration.
What happened in Oregon? And Massachusetts, Maryland, … ?
Committee leaders requested a government watchdog investigation of the failed Oregon health care exchange. The Government Accountability Office has agreed to review what happened in Oregon and how the more than $300 million in federal grants was spent on a website that never successfully enrolled one person. The FBI has since followed suit and is also investigating Oregon’s failed exchange.
Oregon was not the only failure. Massachusetts, what the president called the “model for the nation” has abandoned its exchange and will merge with HealthCare.gov, asking federal taxpayers for $120 million more to make the move. Just days before the start of open enrollment the president declared, “It’s going to be smoother in places like Maryland,” but the state is still furiously trying to rebuild the exchange before the start of the next open enrollment period in November. The Washington Post reports that, “federal authorities appear skeptical.”
What will the health law’s cuts to Medicare mean for seniors?
In a recent letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, committee leaders wrote, “Undoubtedly, PPACA’s cuts to Medicare Advantage plans will directly affect plan offerings, choice of providers, and patient care.” The letter requests details regarding how the health care law’s raid on Medicare will lead to cancelled plans and higher costs for seniors and what the administration’s plan is “to ensure that PPACA’s cuts to Medicare Advantage do not disproportionately harm these seniors?”
What is the effect of the employer mandate on businesses?
In a letter to Treasury Secretary Lew, committee leaders requested documents regarding the costs or burdens of the law’s requirements on employers with more than 50 employees, and on employers with more than 100 employees that Treasury relied upon when delaying employer mandate; as well as the costs or penalties for individuals under the health law that have been prepared for or by Treasury.
What legal authority does the administration have to issue payments through the risk corridor program?
The committee recently released a memo prepared by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service that raises serious questions about the administration’s ability to make payments to insurers through the health care law’s risk corridor program. Administration officials have been unable to answer committee questions regarding how much taxpayers will be on the hook for through this program nor have they made clear what legal authority they have to make payments.
What impact does the Medicaid expansion have on the ability of the program to care for the nation’s most vulnerable?
Committee leaders sent letters to state Medicaid directors regarding the health care law’s impact on the already-struggling Medicaid program. Additionally, in a letter to Comptroller General of the United States Gene Dodaro, committee leaders raised questions about the law’s coverage for jail inmates and how that effects the program’s ability to provide care to the most vulnerable – the program’s initial mission.
The committee’s quest for answers continues….