House panel announces investigation into healthcare reform

A day after the House voted to repeal the healthcare reform law, a powerful House committee is launching a probe of the Obama administration’s efforts to implement the law. 

Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee are flexing their new oversight powers by calling on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to explain why some groups were given waivers to a key requirement of the reform law and why the department recently reorganized an office created just months ago.

The health department’s power to provide temporary exemptions to certain groups on annual insurance-limit requirements included in the reform law is “troubling,” according to a letter from Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and investigations subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.).

The committee is asking the department to provide a list of every individual, organization, business, state or other entity that requested a waiver, obtained a waiver, or has been denied a waiver for any part of the reform law. The probe seeks “all documents” relating to the granting of waivers or exemptions for any reform law requirement.

The letter also asks HHS to explain why the newly renamed Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, which was created in the aftermath of the reform law, was recently moved from the HHS secretary’s office to the Medicare agency. At the time, the department said the move would provide the office with better resources, but Republicans claimed the move was designed to protect the office from the GOP’s efforts to defund the reform law.

The letter is the first indication that Upton will make good on his promise to provide vigorous oversight of the administration’s implementation of the reform law.

“Real oversight is needed, and the Energy and Commerce Committee will work closely with other committees of jurisdiction to reveal, repeal and replace this law,” Upton wrote in a blog for The Hill last month.

An HHS spokeswoman said the department received the letter and is reviewing it.

This post was updated at 11:30 a.m. with the HHS response.