By Sarah Ferris - 10/19/15 12:29 PM EDT
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) is throwing up roadblocks to the confirmation of two top Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) nominees over what he describes as “systematic failures” of an ObamaCare program for start-up insurers.
"I will act to block consideration and confirmation of every [HHS] nominee until families who lost their co-op insurance plans get straight answers,” Sasse announced in a press release Monday.
The Senate has two pending nominees for high-level HHS positions: Andy Slavitt to be head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and Karen DeSalvo to be an assistant secretary.
Sasse is blasting the Obama administration for the failure of nine state-run health insurers known as co-ops, which he and other Republicans have said needed stronger oversight. The co-op program, which is now down to 15 insurers, has received billions of dollars in federal loans.
The future of that program is increasingly in doubt, with several of the ventures forced to close down around the country, including two on Friday. Five states — Colorado, Oregon, Tennessee, Kentucky and New York — have all closed a co-op this month.
Sasse, who has raised concerns about the co-ops in two letters to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, said he has received “insufficient” information in return.
The freshman senator called on Democrats from those states with failed co-op programs to join him.
“Republicans and Democrats from these nine states have an opportunity to stand together and demand answers for our constituents so that this kind of failure never happens again,” he said.