Healthcare Business News

Panel subpoenas details on funding to promote reform law

By Rich Daly
Posted: November 14, 2012 - 10:00 pm ET

The Ways and Means Committee has subpoenaed details on federal funding spent to promote the 2010 federal healthcare overhaul.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the panel's chairman, issued his first subpoena after receiving no responses to voluntary requests for the information since June 1.

“The lack of response leads me to believe that this administration is either unwilling to disclose why they are using taxpayer dollars to market their unpopular law or are unable to keep track of how those taxpayer dollars are being spent,” Camp said in a news release.

Specific information that the subpoena (PDF) required HHS to deliver by Nov. 28 included details on any HHS spending on public relations campaigns, advertisements, polling or message testing related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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HHS has not provided details on what it has spent promoting the controversial law, but news outlets have reported a range of initiatives, including a $20 million contract promoting the law's preventive services and $3 million boosting federal insurance exchanges that launch in 2014.

Camp and Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), a physician who serves as chairman of the panel's oversight subcommittee, wrote HHS last month promising the subpoena if the documents were not produced.

The law's promotional efforts similarly have drawn scrutiny from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.). They wrote Sebelius in September asking for more information on how the states have spent federal funding for health insurance exchanges over concerns that it was being used on “propaganda.”

Democrats have argued that the promotional efforts are similar to those used by the previous administration to disseminate information about Medicare's then-new Part D benefit.

“HHS is doing its job and making sure that Americans know their rights under the new law,” Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee, said in a news release issued in response to the subpoena. “Instead of making it harder for Americans to obtain affordable health insurance, Republicans should join with Democrats in Congress and focus on fully implementing the new law so that its benefits are realized by all Americans.”

An HHS spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment by the deadline for this article.

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