House panel to probe White House health reform office

The letter from Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who leads the oversight subpanel, asks the White House health reform office for the following details by March 4:

  • a list office employees, job title and salaries;
  • a list of every meeting, briefing or telephone call about healthcare reform with outside groups;
  • all written materials about those discussions; and
  • all written communications between the office and outside groups.

Committee Republicans in the past two months have launched investigations into waivers provided for a provision of the reform law, new high-risk insurance pools created by the law and a new Health and Human Services office overseeing the insurance reforms.

Democrats on the committee have accused Republicans of abusing their new oversight powers to score political points.

“I do not believe your oversight powers justify going on fishing expeditions or making extensive requests for internal e-mails and other communications where there is no evidence of waste, fraud or abuse of any kind,” ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) wrote to committee Republicans earlier this month.

Upton fired back a day later.

“If the HHS bureaucracy can handle monitoring every doctor and patient relationship in the United States,” Upton wrote, “it can handle a simple request for documents from an American public hungering to finally know the details about the Administration's health care takeover.”