The Sebelius Shakedown
HHS Seeks Insurance and Healthcare Industry Funds To Promote Obamacare
In Barack Obama’s Washington it’s a new scandal every day, with the Secretary of Health and Human Services joining the chorus-line led by the former Secretary of State and the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.
Kathleen Sebelius, the boss at Health and Human Services, is responsible for implementing Obamacare. It’s a tough job, with a deadline of October 1 to have the insurance exchanges up and running and the whole plan underway next January 1.
Implementing Obamacare costs money. Congress gave Sebelius a hefty chunk of cash – estimated at about $1 billion – to administer the program. But it’s not enough. One estimate says it may cost ten times that much to run the program over the next decade. Congress has refused to give her more money.
Not to worry. Sebelius came up with an ingenious but dubious solution – put the arm on insurance companies and healthcare companies to help foot the bill.
To a super-bureaucrat such as Sebelius, it must have made perfect sense. After all, the insurance companies will cash-in under Obamacare. It forces people to buy health insurance whether they like it or not. Healthcare companies, such as hospitals and other providers, stand to benefit from a steady stream of payments.
This blatant conflict of interest has landed Sebelius in hot water. As one of the most powerful bureaucrats in Washington, she is soliciting money from the very people she will regulate under Obamacare. How can they say no?
Sebelius has been asking industry executives for “contributions” to Enroll America, a nonprofit coalition of groups promoting Obamacare by educating the public about the law and working to enroll the uninsured.
Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, said the Sebelius scheme should be investigated by Congress, adding that it may have violated federal law.
“Such private fundraising circumvents the constitutional requirement that only Congress may appropriate funds,” Alexander said. “If the secretary or others in her department are closely coordinating the activities of Enroll America, which is headed by a former White House aide, then those actions may be in violation of the Anti-Deficiency act.”
The Anti-Deficiency law bans federal departments from making expenditures in excess of funds provided by Congress in one fiscal year.
HHS spokesman Jason Young said Sebelius did not solicit funds from industries she regulates, but only asked them to contribute to the effort to help implement Obamacare.
It’s doubtful that industry executives see the Sebelius pitch as a request for “contributions.” It’s more like a demand for money from companies she can make or break.
The Obamacare law is filled with provisions that give Sebelius unprecedented power. An insurance company or healthcare provider that fails to pony up cash to help her implement Obamacare could live to regret it.
The Sebelius gambit is only the latest in a cascade of Obama scandals. Like the others, it deserves congressional scrutiny and the firm hand of lawmakers who will demand accountability.
During the course of his career, Walker has worked in Chicago, Washington DC, New York City, and Phoenix. He served as a reporter in Chicago, a press secretary and speechwriter in Washington, and in numerous positions in New York in corporate and financial services communications.
Walker is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.