Dec 09 2013
Six weeks have passed without any answers from HHS on use of taxpayer dollars, true cost of implementing Affordable Care Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, has reaffirmed his demand that U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius be forthright about the true costs of implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance Exchange. Six weeks have passed since Sen. Moran requested that HHS answer specific questions about the cost to taxpayers, but HHS has yet to respond to the Senator’s questions.
"On October 24, 2013, I asked the Department for a specific accounting of the funds spent on the federal Exchange established by the ACA. Incredibly, six entire weeks have passed without any answers," Sen. Moran said. "This silence is unacceptable. The Department must be accountable for its use of taxpayer funds – especially when these funds have and continue to be spent without the consent of the Appropriations Committee. It is extremely important that we have a full understanding of the costs associated with implementing the federal Exchange, addressing the technical ‘glitches’ that have plagued the system for months, and the cost effects of the numerous delays relating to the ACA’s implementation."
Sen. Moran is committed to making certain the Obama Administration is held accountable for its use of taxpayer dollars, especially considering the systemic problems plaguing the ACA website, healthcare.gov.
"Since passage of the ACA, this Subcommittee has not held one hearing on the implementation of the law and its associated costs,” Sen. Moran continued. “It is imperative that we hold one now, so we can get an understanding of the costs of this law now and into the future."
Sen. Moran’s October 24th letter to Sec. Sebelius reads:
October 24, 2013
The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201
Dear Secretary Sebelius,
I am writing to request information regarding the activities being undertaken by your Department to correct the serious issues plaguing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance Exchange website – healthcare.gov. According to multiple media reports from across the country, there have been significant technical problems with implementing the system, with several states not having enrolled any individuals to date. Unable to enroll for coverage, individuals are in limbo as they face the threat of penalties under the ACA for not having adequate health care coverage. These issues highlight the failure of the Exchanges to function as designed, and the troubling reality that the American people still do not know the true costs associated with implementing the system.
Further, over the past year, $1.7 billion in taxpayer funds have been used to implement the Exchanges. This funding came exclusively from your Department’s internal transfer of funds to the Exchanges – a decision that avoids Congressional approval. In fact, Congress has not provided any additional funding for Exchanges in Fiscal Year 2013 or through January 2014. Last week, your Department notified my appropriations subcommittee that an additional $450 million would be transferred to fund the Exchanges in Fiscal Year 2014. I am seriously concerned that taxpayers do not have a full understanding of the costs associated with implementing the Exchanges and the costs to fix the egregious technical problems healthcare.gov is currently plagued by. To better understand the cost and scope of Exchange activities, please address the following questions regarding uncertainties about the health insurance Exchanges:
- How much money to date has been spent on developing and implementing healthcare.gov? Please provide the sources of these funds, both discretionary and mandatory.
- Describe the current technical issues affecting healthcare.gov and how the Department intends to correct these problems. Please include a timeline for resolving the issues.
- Describe in detail (including key dates) the steps that your Department took to test the healthcare.gov website prior to roll-out on October 1, 2013. Please include information on technical issues that arose during the testing and how they were resolved.
- Describe in detail what Department offices were responsible for the current version of healthcare.gov. Please also include what private companies were contracted with, how these contractors were selected, their qualifications, what project specifications for which they were responsible, and the cost of each contract.
- If the contractors responsible for healthcare.gov are determined to be at fault, do you intend to recover payments made to them? Please describe what recourses are available.
- In detail, provide the cost breakout for fixing the technical issues associated with the Exchanges. Please include the sources of funding, the estimated timeline for resolving the issues, and the contracts responsible for paying the recruited technical experts brought in.
- On October 18, 2013, your Department notified the Senate Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee that $450 million will be transferred from the Department’s Nonrecurring Expenses Fund to the Exchanges. Will any of these funds be used to fix the current issues with the Exchanges? If so, how much? If not, what, for what specifically will the $450 million be used?
- If the technical issues with the Exchanges cannot be fixed in time, how will the Administration deal with the ACA individual mandate that requires all Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty?
- If the issues with the Exchanges cannot be fixed in time, please explain in detail any contingency plans.
- Under the Continuing Appropriations Act, FY2014 (P.L. 113-46) passed on October 17, 2013, Congress requires you to certify that the Exchanges will verify household income before providing tax credits or any cost-sharing reductions. Please describe how the “data hub” will be used to verify an individual’s eligibility.
- The Administration had previously delayed income verification for 2014 due to issues with the data hub. Please explain how your Department will verify income for individuals signing up for health insurance through the Exchanges.
- Will the verification process occur in real-time?
- On October 21, 2013, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated that if individuals could not get access to insurance, they would not be penalized. Does this statement mean the Administration is considering delaying the ACA individual mandate?
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. I would appreciate a response by November 13, 2013.