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More Questions Than Answers From Sebelius Hearing

- June 5, 2013

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Was On Defense Yesterday, Answering Questions For The First Time Since News Broke That She Was Soliciting Funds For ObamaCare. "Appearing before Congress for the first time since news broke about her calls to drum up support from outside groups, Sebelius on Tuesday had a slew of defenses ready to go." (Paige Winfield Cunningham, "Kathleen Sebelius Defends Her Fundraising For ObamaCare," Politico, 6/5/13)

WHEN PRESSED FOR ANSWERS ON HER OBAMACARE SOLICITATIONS, SECRETARY SEBELIUS CEDED INFORMATION THAT WAS PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN

Why Did It Take Nearly Three Months For Secretary Sebelius To Acknowledge That She Solicited Support For Enroll America From Three Companies Regulated By HHS?

At Yesterday's Congressional Hearing, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Finally Acknowledged That She Solicited Three Companies That Are Regulated By Her Department To Help Enroll America. "Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, disclosed on Tuesday that she had made telephone calls to three companies regulated by her department and urged them to help a nonprofit group promote President Obama's health care law. She identified the companies as Johnson & Johnson, the drug maker; Ascension Health, a large Roman Catholic health care system; and Kaiser Permanente, the health insurance plan." (Robert Pear, "Sebelius Asked Companies To Support Health Care Law," The New York Times, 6/4/13)

  • During Yesterday's Hearing, Secretary Sebelius Said She Reached Out To Johnson & Johnson, Ascension Health, And Kaiser - Three Companies That Are Regulated By HHS. SEC. SEBELIUS: "I made five phone calls for Enroll America and three of them were to discuss the organization and to suggest that the entities look at the organization. Johnson & Johnson, to Ascension Health, and to Kaiser." Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC): "Are any of those groups regulated by your department?" Sec. Sebelius: "Yes, all of them are." (Committee On Education & The Workforce, U.S. House, Hearing, 6/4/13)

"Sebelius Said She Had Not Explicitly Asked The Companies For Money." "At a Congressional hearing, Ms. Sebelius said she had not explicitly asked the companies for money, but urged them to support the work of the nonprofit group, Enroll America." (Robert Pear, "Sebelius Asked Companies To Support Health Care Law," The New York Times, 6/4/13)

In May, "HHS Declined To Identify The Targeted Donors But Said None Of The Companies Are Regulated By Department Agencies." (David Morgan, "Obama's Health Secretary Seeks Donations From Companies For Healthcare Law," Reuters, 5/11/13)

  • Later That Month, HHS Referred Reuters To Its Original Statement After Being Asked If The Department Would Provide "A List Of All Solicitations." "An HHS statement last week said that since March Sebelius solicited financial donations for Enroll America from H&R Block Inc, the tax preparation company, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic entity devoted to public health issues. Asked Monday for a list of all solicitations before or after March, an HHS spokesman referred Reuters to the department's original statement." (David Morgan, "Analysis: Some Republicans See New Scandal In Sebelius Fundraising," Reuters, 5/21/13)

Why Did Companies Feel Pressured By Secretary Sebelius To Contribute To Enroll America If Funding Was Never Discussed?

"There Was A Clear Insinuation By The Administration That The Insurers Should Give Financially." "But the industry official who had knowledge of the calls but did not participate directly in them said there was a clear insinuation by the administration that the insurers should give financially to the nonprofits." (Sarah Kliff, "Budget Request Denied, Sebelius Turns To Health Executives To Finance ObamaCare," The Washington Post's Wonk Blog , 5/10/13)

At Yesterday's Hearing, Secretary Sebelius Didn't Provide A Clear Answer To Why Companies Felt Pressured By Her Phone Calls. REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC): "So if health care officials say they felt pressured to make donations to Enroll America, your response would be what? That they're just too easily pressured or that they misunderstood the conversation" SEC. SEBELIUS: "Well, I can't answer what they felt, I can tell you that I felt that the conversations that I had, as I've said in the past. I made fundraising solicitations to two groups who are not regulated. I did not discuss funding with the other three entities. I did discuss Enroll America." (Committee On Education & The Workforce, U.S. House, Hearing, 6/4/13)

As The Secretary Of HHS, Shouldn't Secretary Sebelius Be Aware Of Any Efforts By HHS Staffers To Solicit Funds For Enroll America?

When Pressed On Whether Any Other Officials Were Soliciting Companies For Enroll America, Secretary Sebelius Said That She Was Unaware. "Ms. Sebelius, appearing Tuesday at a hearing of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said she did not know if anyone else in her department had made calls seeking support for Enroll America." (Robert Pear, "Sebelius Asked Companies To Support Health Care Law," The New York Times, 6/4/13)

  • Secretary Sebelius, On If Any HHS Staff Solicited Funds: "I Really Can't Answer That Question. I Don't Know That." REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC): "To the best of your knowledge, has anyone on your staff or anyone employed by HHS solicited funds on behalf of Enroll America or any other entity? SEC. SEBELIUS: "I really can't answer that question. I don't know that." (Committee On Education & The Workforce, U.S. House, Hearing, 6/4/13)

If Secretary Sebelius Didn't Tell The White House That She Was Soliciting Funds For Enroll America, Then Who Did?

At Yesterday's Hearing, Secretary Sebelius Said She "Never Discussed" With The White House Any Solicitations For Enroll America. "Ms. Sebelius said that she had made a total of five calls soliciting support for Enroll America, and that she did not know if anyone else in her department had also done so. She said she 'never discussed' the solicitations with anyone at the White House." (Robert Pear, "Sebelius Asked Companies To Support Health Care Law," The New York Times, 6/4/13)

"White House Officials Said They Did Not Sign Off On The Fund-Raising Calls Made By Kathleen Sebelius … But Were Generally Aware That She Would Be Seeking Support From Outside Groups." "The Obama administration's efforts to raise private money to carry out the president's health care law have provoked such a strong partisan uproar that potential donors have become skittish about contributing, according to several people involved in the fund-raising program. White House officials said they did not sign off on the fund-raising calls made by Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, but were generally aware that she would be seeking support from outside groups." (Robert Pear, "Potential Donors To Enroll America Grow Skittish," The New York Times , 5/19/13)

How Can We Trust Secretary Sebelius To Be Honest And Forthcoming When She And Others At HHS Are Using Secret Email Accounts And Avoiding Transparency?

The Associated Press Reveals That Some Of Obama's Political Appointees, Including HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Are Using "Secret Governmental Email Accounts." "Some of President Barack Obama's political appointees, including the secretary for Health and Human Services, are using secret government email accounts they say are necessary to prevent their inboxes from being overwhelmed with unwanted messages, according to a review by The Associated Press." (Jack Gillum, "Top Political Appointees Use Secret Email Accounts," The Associated Press, 6/4/13)

  • "At Least Two Other Senior HHS Officials - Including Donald Berwick, Former Head Of The Centers For Medicare And Medicaid Services, And Gary Cohen, A Deputy Administrator In Charge Of Implementing Health Insurance Reform - Also Have Secret Government Email Addresses, According To The Records Obtained By The AP." (Jack Gillum, "Top Political Appointees Use Secret Email Accounts," The Associated Press, 6/4/13)

"Secret Email Accounts Complicate An Agency's Legal Responsibilities To Find And Turn Over Emails In Response To Congressional Or Internal Investigations, Civil Lawsuits Or Public Records Requests." "The secret email accounts complicate an agency's legal responsibilities to find and turn over emails in response to congressional or internal investigations, civil lawsuits or public records requests because employees assigned to compile such responses would necessarily need to know about the accounts to search them. Secret accounts also drive perceptions that government officials are trying to hide actions or decisions." (Jack Gillum, "Top Political Appointees Use Secret Email Accounts," The Associated Press, 6/4/13)


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