Enzi alleges political favoritism in retiree program

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The GAO report also says HHS accepted “nearly all” of the requests it received for the retiree program before cutting off applications.

HHS quit accepting new applications in May because it was already on track to exhaust the ERRP’s funding before the program’s scheduled expiration in 2014. GAO confirmed that the funding is expected to run out in 2012.

Small businesses had urged HHS to set up a review process that would prevent government offices and unions from dominating the ERRP. But, according to GAO, the department set up a first-come, first-served system.

“Officials told us that the applications they received were not given preference based on any particular category of submitted information or for any other reason and were processed in the order in which they were received,” the GAO report states.

Republicans have raised similar complaints about the process through which HHS awarded waivers from the healthcare law’s limits on annual benefit caps. HHS has faced charges of political cronyism, including favorable treatment of unions, but ultimately the department granted more than 90 percent of all waiver requests.