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Ahead of 'Sabotage' Hearing, House Democrat Threatens to Subpoena Azar, Verma

By Steven Porter  
   October 21, 2019

The committee chairman accuses the administration of withholding analyses that show its healthcare policies are expected to result in higher costs and a smaller insured population.

House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey, threatened to subpoena two of the government's top healthcare officials over their alleged failure to comply with the committee's requests for documents and information.

Pallone made the threat in a letter last Wednesday to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, alleging that the Trump administration has moved forward with healthcare policies despite its own analysis showing that those policies would increase healthcare costs and reduce the insured population.

After being asked to give the committee a copy of the CMS Office of the Actuary's (OACT) analysis, HHS said in July that it doesn't have to produce the requested documentation because it "is protected by the deliberative process privilege," according to Pallone's letter, which sought to refute HHS' argument.

"Congress has a constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch, and a longstanding interest in ensuring that the Executive Branch operates in a transparent manner," Pallone wrote. "I am very concerned that despite the analyses by OACT, the Administration appears to be continuing to contemplate destructive policies that could harm families' access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance coverage."

If HHS doesn't provide the relevant documents by October 30, the committee "will be forced to consider" compelling their release, Pallone wrote.

The letter came a week before an oversight subcommittee hearing titled, "Sabotage: The Trump Administration's Attack on Health Care," which is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Although there's no question that the Trump administration has sought to unwind the Affordable Care Act through legislation and litigation, officials have repeatedly rejected notions that they are engaged in efforts to "sabotage" the Obama-era law.

Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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