WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of a nearly yearlong effort to obtain information regarding the source of funding for the Basic Health Program, the House Ways and Means Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The committees have been seeking to understand the facts that led to the administration’s decision to fund the Basic Health Program without a congressional appropriation. Instead of seeking an appropriation, as required by the law, the administration has redirected taxpayer dollars. HHS has failed to comply with the committees’ requests for information, including subpoenas issued on March 29, 2016.
“Since June 2015, the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Ways and Means have sought information from your department about the implementation and source of funding for the Basic Health Program (BHP),” wrote Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “Today, almost a year later, your Department has failed to provide meaningful answers to our questions. Your refusal to provide the requested documents and information raises serious concerns about the Department’s willingness to be accountable for the lawful execution of laws passed by Congress.”
The leaders continued, “Given the Department’s refusal to voluntarily produce the required materials over nine months, on March 29, 2016, our Committees each served you a subpoena for documents related to the Basic Health Program. As a significant accommodation to the Department, our subpoenas called for the Department to produce the Committees’ narrowed request for documents, and not the full scope of documents responsive to our original request. These subpoenas created a legal obligation on the Department to produce all responsive materials.”
Since the March subpoena, HHS has only provided one page of one document, which contained heavy redactions. Today’s letter demands that the Department immediately produce all documents responsive to the subpoenas.
Click here to read a copy of the letter.
A timeline of events leading up to today’s subpoenas is included below.
June 10, 2015
Subcommittee Chairmen Roskam, Murphy, Brady, and Pitts sent letters to HHS and Treasury requesting documents and information regarding the implementation and funding the Basic Health Program.
July 2, 2015
Treasury and HHS sent a joint response which did not explain how the BHP is funded, only that the program “is fully funded under the ACA.” The letter also stated that the agencies “estimate that the total amount spent in FY 2015 will be approximately $1.3 billion.”
July 28, 2015
Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources Ellen Murray briefed the committees regarding the process by which HHS developed the BHP. During the briefing, Murray referenced several specific documents, but did not bring them or provide copies to the committees.
September 21, 2015
Chairmen Ryan and Upton, along with Subcommittee Chairmen Roskam, Murphy, Brady and Pitts, sent a letter to HHS narrowing the initial request to specific categories of documents referenced by Murray in the July 28 briefing.
November 13, 2015
HHS responded to the committees’ September 21 letter, and produced 24 pages of documents. HHS failed to produce most of the requested documents and heavily redacted information from the few documents it did produce.
December 3, 2015
The committees sent a letter to HHS expressing their disappointment with HHS’ November 13 response. The chairmen reiterated the September 21 document requests, and asked for full production by December 17, 2015.
January 14, 2016
The committees sent a letter to HHS, stating that “[w]e remain deeply concerned about the Administration’s decision [to fund the BHP without a Congressional appropriation], and your agency’s lack of cooperation with this important investigation.” The letter further stated that if HHS “does not produce all the requested documents by January 28, 2016, we will have no choice but to consider the use of the compulsory process.”
January 28, 2016
HHS responded to the committees’ December 3 and January 14 letters. Included with the response was a production of publically available documents not responsive to the committees’ requests. The letter offered an in camera review of the previously produced, but redacted documents.
February 5, 2016
Committee staff viewed documents in camera at HHS.
February 10, 2016
At a Ways and Means budget hearing, Chairman Roskam asked Secretary Burwell whether HHS would produce the requested documents to the committees. Secretary Burwell responded that “our staffs need to get together to understand this.”
February 11-16, 2016
HHS staff sent an email with HHS’ explanation for the redactions in the November production. HHS staff also asked that the committees identify the additional documents sought.
Committee staff attempted to set up an in-person meeting with HHS staff to discuss the committees’ outstanding document requests. HHS staff did not schedule a meeting with committee staff.
February 24, 2016
At an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, Rep. Whitfield asked Secretary Burwell whether HHS would produce the requested BHP documents. She did not directly answer the question, but indicated that her staff would discuss the request with committee staff.
March 2, 2016
HHS staff emailed committee staff indicating that HHS would not produce any additional documents responsive to the committees’ requests.
March 29, 2016
The committees each issue a subpoena to HHS compelling production of documents related to the Basic Health Program.
April 12, 2016
HHS produces one heavily-redacted page of one document in response to the committees’ subpoenas.