Faced with repeated congressional interference, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has gone to the health care industry and other civic leaders for financial help in promoting the Affordable Care Act, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
Sebelius has allegedly reached out to industry executives, church groups and advocacy organizations and asked them to donate to non-profit groups already working to promote the new healthcare law, commonly referred to as “Obamacare.” The non-profits boost awareness of the law by encouraging uninsured Americans to take part.
A spokesperson for the department, Jason Young, said the secretary is working “with a full range of stakeholders who share in the mission of getting Americans the help they need and deserve.”
Sebelius’ move was reportedly prompted by Congress’ rejection of several requests by President Barack Obama’s administration for additional funding necessary to implement the law, which was deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court in June 2012. Lawmakers rejected two requests totalling $2.5 billion that would have gone toward the opening of several government-run health care exchanges, currently scheduled to open in October. The department’s assistant secretary for Financial Resources, Ellen Murray, said last month that HHS was forced as a result to develop a “Plan B.”
Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office predict that the government would need between $5 billion and $10 billion to implement the law over the course of the next 10 years, a process complicated by several states’ refusal to take part.
Justice Department rules stipulate that federal officials are barred from raising funds while using their official title or asking for money from “a subordinate or from someone who has or seeks business with the Department.” But according to Politico, the report has already brought about criticism from Republican lawmakers.
“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,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said in a statement. “Moving forward, I will be seeking more information from the administration about these actions to help better understand whether there are conflicts of interest and if it violated federal law.”
Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) also called for an investigation into Sebelius’ activities, saying, “The appearance of impropriety is glaring.”