House Republicans want some answers from Obama, mainly – for details on over $1 billion in federal grants to failed state Obamacare exchanges, asking for access to the federal officials who approved funding for the struggling states. On Tuesday, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to outgoing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking for access to the federal officials who approved funding for seven states whose federal grant money comprised $1.3 billion.
“The exchanges in the seven states, none of which have delivered on their promise, now demand even more taxpayer dollars to be fixed or completely rebuilt,” said committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton. “A billion dollars is a steep price to pay for incompetence.”
The committee is seeking a list of all HHS subagencies and employees that had a role in awarding grants to all state-run (and Washington, D.C.’s) exchanges; details on the review process for awarding grants and meetings between HHS representatives and state exchange officials; as well as all funding requests and documentation that all states exchanges submitted to HHS.
Oregon, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maryland make up some of the worst-run Obamacare exchanges on the list : All four have trashed their initial, failed websites in favor of another model. Oregon and Nevada have already opted to join the federal exchange HealthCare.gov for the next enrollment period; Massachusetts may do so later this summer. Maryland, meanwhile, gave up on its site and purchased a new model at higher cost. Funding for the four abandoned exchanges comes in just over $746 million.
And even though some states are attempting to fix their exchanges are spending millions of federal taxpayer dollars on struggling products. Vermont, Hawaii and Minnesota have faced technical challenges, data security flaws, eligibility and payment issues — and all three are still facing funding shortfalls. The three states were awarded a total of over $568 million to build their still-insufficient Obamacare websites.
And the Obama administration was charged with overseeing the state exchanges, raising questions about how detailed the federal oversight process really was. States were subject to periodic, benchmarked reviews so that HHS officials could approve ongoing website construction and ensure that states would have a completed product on time. But the Obama administration’s failure to do so with HealthCare.gov — the website’s back-end operations have still not been built — may raise questions about its ability to oversee state operations.
Oregon’s Obamacare exchange is the only one thus far to spark an FBI investigation into whether state officials lied to the federal government about their exchange website’s progress.
“The administration threw away not just $800 million on its own broken website, but $1 billion on failed state exchanges, too,” said oversight subcommittee Chairman Rep. Tim Murphy. “The taxpayers deserve to know whether any due diligence was performed on these grants by the administration in its haste to rush forward with a broken law.”