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House Republicans press HHS about Affordable Care Act funding

Congressional committees hone in on Basic Health Program, state exchange IT systems

Two House Republicans say they might subpoena Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell for what they say is the misuse of Affordable Care Act funds.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) say that the Basic Health Program (BHP), which gives states a lower-cost alternative for offering coverage to people who can't afford ACA plans but aren't eligible for Medicaid, is funded without congressional approval.

The program has received federal funding for six months, and the committee leaders accuse HHS of "ongoing obstruction" in their effort to investigate the BHP. They say the few documents HHS has provided about the program have been improperly redacted.

Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) role in assisting some states' transition from state-based information technology systems for their exchanges to the federal program. States such as Hawaii have had to transition to the Healthcare.gov platform when they were unable to pull off their own exchanges

Committee leaders want GAO to investigate if CMS assisted states' transition to a different marketplace IT platform; if CMS plans to help states ensure that any future marketplace IT systems are self-sustaining; and if CMS had a role in overseeing and monitoring the operation and performance of states' marketplaces in the absence of federal grant funds.

"With nearly $5.5 billion in Obamacare grants already awarded to states, committee leaders are concerned whether states will be able to financially sustain their marketplace IT systems, putting further taxpayer dollars at risk," the announcement says.

Last December, CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt assured Congress that not only have state-run health insurance exchanges made great strides, but also that CMS is striving to be a responsible steward of the grant money that those exchanges receive

To learn more:
- here is the House Ways and Means Committee letter
- read the announcement from the House Energy and Commerce Committee

Related Articles:
State exchanges may turn to feds, other states to run their marketplaces
CMS' Andy Slavitt defends oversight of state exchanges
OIG: CMS needs clearer funding guidelines for state-run marketplaces