While the Obama administration is busy dealing with the IRS scandal, the Benghazi scandal and the seizure of reporters’ phone records, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is skirting around a problem as well. Sebelius has been asking for donations for Obamacare costs from the very people and industry who will be charged with implementing it and getting government money to do so.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has gone, hat in hand, to health industry officials, asking them to make large financial donations to help with the effort to implement President Obama’s landmark health-care law, two people familiar with the outreach said.
Her unusual fundraising push comes after Congress repeatedly rejected the Obama administration’s requests for additional funds to set up the Affordable Care Act, leaving HHS to implement the president’s signature legislative accomplishment on what officials have described as a shoestring budget.
Cabinet members may fund raise, but not in an official capacity: they may not use their title, or solicit from those with whom they may do business. Sebelius’ actions seem to be in direct contradiction of these directives, and has caused some serious eye-brow raising in Washington.
The Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Committee began a probe by sending a letter Monday to Sebelius and groups that she might have contacted.
The letter to Sebelius asks her to provide several pieces of information by May 27 related to the solicitations, including names of those contacted “in this unusual fundraising pitch” as well as phone logs and whether other agency officials were involved.
Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said: “Despite HHS’ insistence that the secretary did not directly ask for funds, one source said, ‘There was a clear insinuation by the administration that the insurers should give financially to the nonprofits.’ ”
The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as it’s come to be called, is set to begin October 1, 2013. It is estimated that this health care plan will reconstruct how one-fifth of the American economy is spent, and also gives the government the ability to decide which health care plans will be allowed to participate, receiving government funds and reimbursements. It certainly would seem that asking this industry to “donate” to Obamacare is unethical, if not illegal.
Meredith McGehee, policy director for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, which researches government ethics issues, said she was troubled by Sebelius’s activities because the secretary seemed to be “using the power of government to compel giving or insinuate that giving is going to be looked at favorably by the government.”
If nothing else, this speaks to the problem the Obama administration is having funding its massive $2.6 trillion health care overhaul.