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Pallone Demands HHS Respond to Oversight Requests of the Administration’s Attempts to Undermine the ACA

Oct 16, 2019
Press Release
“Obstruction of the Committee’s legitimate exercise of its oversight responsibilities is unacceptable”

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma today demanding responses to several outstanding oversight requests of the Trump Administration’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and warned that additional measures, including subpoenas, may be necessary if the Administration continues to obstruct the Committee’s legitimate oversight requests.

“I write to request your immediate attention regarding the Department of Health and Human Services’ wholly inadequate response to my letter of June 13, 2019, regarding certain policies under consideration by the Trump Administration that would increase health care costs and take away coverage from American families and patients,” Pallone wrote to Azar and Verma.  “To date, HHS has refused to provide any of the requested documents and information.  Obstruction of the Committee’s legitimate exercise of its oversight responsibilities is unacceptable and, if continued, may necessitate the use of additional measures, including compulsory process.”

In June, Pallone joined Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal and Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott in a letter to Azar and Verma requesting documents and information, including internal assessments by the CMS Office of the Actuary (OACT), on several policy proposals under consideration that would have wide-ranging impacts on Americans’ health care.  According to an internal CMS memo, OACT determined 1.1 million Americans would lose coverage and premiums would increase if the proposals were adopted. 

The Administration has refused to provide the requested OACT analyses, citing protection from congressional oversight by the deliberative process privilege.  Pallone explains in his letter that the deliberative process privilege does not pertain to, and is inconsistent with, Congress’ constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch.  Pallone also notes that the Administration is misleadingly citing a non-binding, district court decision to assert the deliberative process privilege and that the Administration has already waived its ability to claim the privilege.

Pallone continued in his letter, “I am very concerned that despite the analyses by OACT, the Administration appears to be continuing to contemplate destructive policies that could harm families’ access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance coverage.  Please provide the underlying OACT analyses and the documents responsive to my June 13, 2019, letter no later than October 30, 2019, or the Committee will be forced to consider additional measures to compel production of the requested documents.”

Read Pallone’s letter HERE.