While last Friday’s IRS bombshell was disturbing, another story is equally shocking. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is hungry for funds to implement the Affordable Care Act on time. Congress has rejected the Obama administration’s request for more funds to subsidize the initiative. Sarah Kliff wrote on May 10 that the HHS is working with a “shoestring budget,” and now its secretary is going to the health care industry pleading for money.
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.
Over the past three months, Sebelius has made multiple phone calls to health industry executives, community organizations and church groups and asked that they contribute whatever they can to nonprofit groups that are working to enroll uninsured Americans and increase awareness of the law, according to an HHS official and an industry person familiar with the secretary’s activities. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk openly about private discussions.
An HHS spokesperson said Sebelius was within the bounds of her authority in asking for help.
But Republicans charged that Sebelius’s outreach was improper because it pressured private companies and other groups to support the Affordable Care Act. The latest controversy has emerged as the law faces a string of challenges from GOP lawmakers in Washington and skepticism from many state officials across the country.
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.”
The success of the Affordable Care Act largely hinges on whether enough people sign up for insurance coverage. If only a small number of sick people participate, premiums would spike. But spreading information about the law to the 30 million uninsured Americans has been a struggle, partly because there isn’t enough money to fund the effort, HHS officials have argued.
Or, it could be that the new health care law is unpopular – and that includes 37% of Democrats who are also skeptical of the legislation’s impact. Nevertheless, this new lobbying push by HHS, regardless if it’s ethical, displays the vast powers the secretary has over health care policy. Back in 2010, Philip Klein wrote in the American Spectator that:
there are more than 2,500 references to the secretary of HHS in the health care law (in most cases she’s simply mentioned as “the Secretary”). A further breakdown finds that there are more than 700 instances in which the Secretary is instructed that she “shall” do something, and more than 200 cases in which she “may” take some form of regulatory action if she chooses. On 139 occasions, the law mentions decisions that the “Secretary determines.” At times, the frequency of these mentions reaches comic heights. For instance, one section of the law reads: “Each person to whom the Secretary provided information under subsection (d) shall report to the Secretary in such manner as the Secretary determines appropriate.”
The powers given to Sebelius are wide ranging. In the coming years, if she remains in office, the former Kansas governor will be able to determine what type of insurance coverage every American is required to have. She can influence what hospitals can participate in certain plans, can set up health insurance exchanges within states against their will, and even regulate McDonald’s Happy Meals. She’ll run pilot programs that Democrats have set up in an effort to control costs, and be in a position to dole out billions of dollars in grant money.
But the full breadth of her powers will be known only over time, due to the ambiguity of the language in many parts of the health care legislation. As conservatives make the case for repealing ObamaCare over the course of the next several years, it will be imperative to highlight the arbitrary new powers given to an unelected bureaucrat.
Thus, it’s no surprise – and quite fitting – that Klein called Sebelius the ‘Empress of ObamaCare.” Yet, she’s could be – no she is– benevolent towards her friends given that:
many of Sebelius’s calls have gone to current supporters of Enroll America, the most prominent nonprofit group working on the health care law’s implementation, an HHS official said. Its president, Anne Filipic, joined the group in January after serving as the White House’s deputy director for public engagement.
Yeah, nothing stinks about this new development. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin posted today that Congress should investigate this new fundraising ploy by the Obama administration, which, on top of the IRS and Benghazi fallout, will be another shady use of government power by this president. As DrewM. at Ace of Spades wrote on May 10, the folks who do give Sebelius money should expect ”a little something extra in the regulations for those that pony up. [After all,] they are just doing it out of the goodness of their tiny, black, capitalist hearts.”
Here’s to free stuff.
(H/T Ace of Spades)