Three Senate Republicans are calling on a government watchdog to assess whether Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was correct when she certified that a key part of Obamacare was working well, after a few reports have surfaced that say it's not working at all.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wrote to the HHS Inspector General on Tuesday to request a closer examination of a certification Sebelius made in a January letter to Vice President Biden.
Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell is asking a government watchdog to assess whether Obamacare subsidies are being handed out properly, as HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius certified. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
In that letter, Sebelius certified that Obamacare's insurance exchanges take steps to verify that people who apply for subsidies to buy health insurance are eligible to receive those subsidies. Eligibility for subsidies is based on the income level of the person applying.
That certification was required by Congress, which wanted to be sure the government can verify people's income levels before the government starts handing out subsidies to people who may not qualify.
But McConnell's letter noted a report from the Washington Post that said more than 1 million people appear to be getting incorrect subsidies, and that the government appears to have no way to fix this problem.
The letter also noted that an official from the Treasury Department's Inspector General told the Senate in April that the information technology upgrades needed to prevent improper payments has not yet been developed.
"Unfortunately, a growing body of information suggests that the Secretary's certification was either premature or entirely incorrect," McConnell wrote in his letter, which was also signed by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
"These reports call into serious question the veracity of the Secretary's certification that Exchanges will accurately verify an applicant's eligibility for subsidies before they were issued," they wrote. "It seems highly unlikely that the Secretary could accurately certify that systems were put in place to verify the accuracy of applicant information, when in fact these systems had not been fully developed, tested, and deployed."
Under current law, the HHS Inspector General must prepare a report to Congress on the implementation of Obamacare by July 1. The letter concludes by asking the IG office to "examine the reports cited above when evaluating the effectiveness of the procedures and safeguards the Secretary certified."
Last week, Republicans indicated that they were watching for another potential Obamacare funding failure, one related to a program aimed at ensuring health insurance companies don't go broke under the law.
The administration said it is examining how to ensure there is enough money for these companies, and hinted it might seek more money from Congress to ensure this "risk corridor" program has enough funding to pay companies that don't turn a profit.
Republicans in the past have been not been inclined to provide extra money to implement the law. The GOP has asked the administration how much more money it would need, but officials had not responded as of last week.