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Ryan: Americans Deserve Answers on Obamacare

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Washington, Oct 23, 2013 | William Allison (202-226-6100) | comments
WASHINGTON­—The Health and Human Services Department has yet to respond to repeated requests from the House Budget Committee for information about the implementation of the President’s health-care law. Now, HBC chairman Paul Ryan is asking for more information about President Obama’s “tech surge” to fix the dysfunctional HealthCare.gov website.

“The American people have a right to know how HHS is spending their money,” said Chairman Ryan. “We were told we had to pass the health-care bill to find out what was in it. But it’s been three years, and we’re still in the dark.”

On August 15, Chairman Ryan sent a letter to HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking her to testify on the department’s plans for implementation on September 11. HHS staff indicated that she wouldn’t be available on that date—or on three alternative dates. But her office never sent an official reply.

On August 22, Chairman Ryan sent another letter to the secretary asking her to provide an organizational chart of the department’s implementation efforts. The letter also asked that the department produce a list of the offices involved in implementation, the number of full-time employees involved, and all relevant spending items. Chairman Ryan asked the secretary to provide the requested materials by September 11.

On September 10, the department told HBC staff in a telephone conversation that it would reply to the committee’s request within the next two weeks. But HHS has yet to respond. On October 18, HBC staff followed up with the department via email—but received no reply.

On October 22—two months after the original request—Chairman Ryan sent a follow-up letter to Secretary Sebelius. In his latest letter, Ryan writes, “Your continued silence on these important inquiries after refusing to testify raises serious questions about the administration’s commitment to transparency and accountability.”

The letter also includes a request for more information about President Obama’s so-called tech surge to fix the law’s website, HealthCare.gov. It asks the secretary to provide the number of people hired, their compensation, and the aggregate costs of their repairs.

Below is a timeline of the committee’s requests to the HHS department.
  • On August 15, Chairman Ryan sent a letter to Secretary Sebelius asking her testify on September 11. HHS staff said the secretary was unable to testify that day—and on three alternative dates. The chairman sent a follow-up request for further information on August 22.
  • On August 26, the committee asked officials from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), and the Department of Labor (DOL) to testify.
    • CMS said administrator Marilyn Tavenner was unavailable to testify on the initial date of September 11 and the alternatives dates of September 17, 18, and 19.  CMS also said deputy administrator and director Gary Cohen was unavailable to testify on the initial date of September 11 and any day the following week.
    • DOL said that assistant secretary for employee benefits Phyllis Borzi was unavailable to testify on the initial date of September 11. The committee made a follow-up request on September 9, and DOL said she was unavailable on the alternative dates as well.
  • On October 22, Chairman Ryan sent a follow-up letter to Secretary Sebelius, expressing concerns over her department’s refusal to answer basic questions. Ryan also asked her to detail the costs of the administration’s so-called tech surge, “including the number of people hired, their compensation, and the aggregate cost of their repairs.”
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