WASHINGTON — Kansas’ junior senator is demanding the Obama administration to explain the use of taxpayer dollars, as well as the true cost of implementing, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said this week Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services secretary and former Kansas governor, in particular should answer for the health care overhaul’s high cost — especially considering the systemic problems continuing to plague the health care exchange website, healthcare.gov
“Over the past year, $1.7 billion in taxpayer funds have been used to implement the exchanges. This funding came exclusively from your [Health and Human Services] Department’s internal transfer of funds to the exchanges — a decision that avoids Congressional approval,” Moran said in a letter to Sebelius. “Last week, your department notified [the Senate] appropriations subcommittee that an additional $450 million would be transferred to fund the exchanges in Fiscal Year 2014. I am seriously concerned that taxpayers do not have a full understanding of the costs associated with implementing the exchanges and the costs to fix the egregious technical problems healthcare.gov is currently plagued by.”
Moran, the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, called on Sebelius to answer questions about exactly how much money has been spent developing and implementing healthcare.gov, and whether Health and Human Services intends to recover payments made to the contractors responsible for the site if they are determined to be at fault.
The Kansas senator also demanded to know what steps Health and Human Services took to test the website before its Oct. 1 rollout, and asked for specifics on any technical issues that arose during the testing.
In addition to requesting a timeline and detailed cost breakdown for resolving the issues with healthcare.gov, Moran asked for Sebelius’ contingency plans if the technical issues with the exchanges cannot be fixed in a timely fashion.
Moran said he thinks Americans need to be clearly informed by the Obama administration how it plans to deal with the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate that requires all Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty.
Earlier this month, Moran’s colleague U.S. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., called on Sebelius to “resign for gross incompetence leading to the complete failure of the exchange to enroll millions of Americans in health care plans as promised,” specifically citing the problems with healthcare.gov
“How long do we let this failed exchange continue to operate?” Roberts asked. “Today we know the problems with the exchanges are systematic, profound and indisputable. And yet [Sebelius] won’t shoot straight with the American people. ... [She has] continued wasting taxpayer dollars on advertising and promotional tours. This included failed rallies at NFL stadiums and appearances on comedy shows to promote enrollment while at the same time, Americans were unable to sign up for healthcare plans as promised.
“In the absence of a full repeal of Obamacare, which is my preference, we need new leadership from top to bottom. I am calling on the secretary to resign,” Roberts said Oct. 11. “Everything we warned about has come to pass. Americans are tired of the Sebelius spin. They can see Obamacare has failed them. We need a secretary who can admit when enough is enough. ... The American people should not have to tolerate the chaos of the exchange, or the ill effects of Obamacare for one more day. They are already suffering in a terrible economy. They have higher taxes, higher premiums and great uncertainty about access to quality healthcare. We need a secretary who realizes that.”
Roberts was among those Republicans, along with then-U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, now Kansas governor, who endorsed Sebelius’ 2009 nomination for Health and Human Services secretary, and voted for her confirmation.