Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has concocted an unusual way to fund the Affordable Care Act, and now some Republican lawmakers are calling her efforts illegal.
According to a report in the Washington Post, over the past three months the HHS secretary has “made multiple phone calls to health industry executives, community organizations and church groups” asking them to support ObamaCare “in any way they can.”
Though the HHS has denied any wrongdoing, Republicans in Congress have jumped on the strategy to uncover any potential illegal activity.
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said in a statement, “Secretary Sebelius’s fundraising for and coordinating with private entities helping to implement the new health care law may be illegal, should cease immediately and should be fully investigated by Congress.”
According to Sen. Alexander, this fundraising scheme is similar to the Reagan-era Iran-Contra scandal in that money has been funneled from private entities after Congress had intentionally withheld appropriations, circumventing the constitutional requirement that only Congress has the power to appropriate funds.
Congress has denied additional funds to the ObamaCare program and financial insolvency looms in its future.
Initial estimates about the cost of ObamaCare were low, and the law’s supporters have been looking for additional funding to keep the program afloat. Requests to Congress for additional money were turned down, and many of the state governors have refused to comply with setting up insurance exchanges, forcing the Obama administration to look for ways to get around the dearth of funds.
Sen. Alexander also said, “If the secretary or others in her department are fundraising and coordinating the activities of Enroll America and soliciting donations to supplement appropriated funds, then those actions may be in violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act.”
Enroll America is a Washington, D.C. nonprofit group that has been enlisted by Sebelius for help in implementing the Obama Administration’s health care law. The HHS claims that the main role for Enroll America and other similar organizations is “outreach”; according to Enroll America President Anne Filipic, the purpose is to aid in the cooperation between public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
A spokesman from the HHS denied any illegal activity and said that a section of the Public Health Service Act allows Secretary Sebelius to work with outside organizations. The Public Health Service Act was passed under President Franklin Roosevelt in 1944 and gives the HHS secretary the power to encourage outside groups to contribute to government initiatives but not to directly fundraise.
This dance around the law has prompted skeptical Republican leaders to question whether or not the HHS has willingly or unintentionally fallen into a trap of illegality in its desperate push to fund Obama’s signature legislation.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said in a statement, “To solicit funds from health-care executives to help pay for the implementation of the President’s $2.6 trillion health spending law is absurd.” Hatch vowed to continue investigating the matter to determine whether or not this cooperation and “outreach” has developed into something illicit.