• Cruz, Lee Hit HHS Nominee Burwell Over Obamacare Transparency

    Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee sent a letter Friday asking Health and Services secretary nominee Sylvia Burwell to come clean about how she would implement Obamacare if confirmed.

    “So far, Ms. Burwell’s testimony has been less than forthcoming and suggests she plans to follow the lead of her predecessor in blocking Congress’s ability to do proper oversight for the America people,” the senators wrote in a statement. “The questions we propose in the letter have not only been asked repeatedly, but deal with issues she should have been prepared to answer at her hearings but did not.”

    Cruz and Lee asked the current Office of Management and Budget director a host of questions about the status of the health care law, asking for her commitment to provide data about the health care exchanges to Congress and the public before confirmed by the full Senate.

    The duo asked that Burwell promise to reveal information on the final enrollment tally, taking into account duplicate enrollments reported by insurance officials; percentages of paid premiums, broken down by age; the number of previously uninsured exchange customers; and a list of insurers who offer elective abortion in their coverage, which current HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius reportedly promised to provide but did not. 

    The Obama administration’s reticence over revealing most detailed information about those who signed up for coverage on Obamacare exchanges nationwide has ignited controversy for the law’s critics. The only payment information released by the federal government has comes from House Republicans, who compiled a report in April detailing those who had paid their premiums by April 15, several weeks before many customers’ deadline to pay.

    Cruz and Lee also asked Burwell whether CMS will spend taxpayer dollars to make risk corridor payments — commonly considered an insurer bailout — to insurance companies on the exchanges. A new CMS ruling out Friday indicates that the Obama administration is open to going back on its previous promise to keep the risk corridor program budget-neutral.

    Burwell’s approval of an OMB action to exempt Obamacare premium subsidies from the sequester, despite an OMB report which found the subsidies to be applicable to the cost-cutting law, also came under fire. Cruz and Lee requested an explanation of OMB’s legal authority and the agency’s reversal on the issue.

    Burwell is likely to be confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate, with Democrats hoping to have her approved by Memorial Day.

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