November 06, 2017

Following Government Watchdog Report, Senators Warren and Murray Request Further Details from HHS on Sabotage of Open Enrollment, Waste of Taxpayer Dollars

Focus on Key Decisionmakers: Was White House Involved?; Trump Administration Decision to Pull ACA Enrollment Outreach Ads Cost $1.1 Million

Text of the letter available here (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today called on Health and Human Services (HHS) Acting Secretary Eric Hargan to provide details about the department's decision to waste $1.1 million in an effort to sabotage open enrollment.

Just a few days prior to the end of the 2017 open enrollment period, the Trump Administration canceled key portions of Affordable Care Act (ACA) paid advertising and outreach efforts to promote individual enrollment. This action prompted concerns that the Trump Administration decision was wasteful and unwarranted, and would reduce ACA enrollment, leading Senators Warren and Murray to request an investigation by the HHS Inspector General (IG). The recently released report from the IG found that the decision to pull the ads was largely political, with little analysis of the impact on ACA enrollment, and resulted in the waste of over $1million in taxpayer funds.

The HHS IG report "paints a disturbing picture of a decision-making process riddled with confusion, disregard for the nation's healthcare system, and, ultimately, wasted taxpayer dollars," wrote Senators Warren and Murray. "This is an ongoing concern about how decisions are being made for this year's open enrollment period, given the ad cancellation decision-making process detailed in the IG's report," they continued.

Senators Warren and Murray requested that HHS identify which individuals were involved in the decision to pull the advertisements, including any White House officials. The senators also asked for additional details about the agency's chain of command, which allowed the White House Liaison for HHS to give the cancellation order, and if any of the officials that were in place at that time are currently responsible for managing the open enrollment process.