By Sam Baker - 05/13/13 10:35 PM EDT
House Republicans sought detailed information Monday about Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's effort to raise money for a group promoting President Obama's healthcare law.
The Washington Post first reported Friday that Sebelius has asked healthcare executives and community groups to donate to Enroll America, a non-profit group formed to promote the Affordable Care Act and encourage people to enroll in new coverage options.
HHS has defended the fundraising effort, saying it is clearly authorized by federal healthcare law and consistent with the department's mission of promoting wider access to healthcare.
Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee, however, said the solicitations give a "clear appearance of a conflict of interest." The committee questioned whether Sebelius is violating a federal law that says government employees may not raise money from entities they regulate.
"As the Secretary of HHS, ObamaCare gives you unprecedented power to regulate a significant share of the U.S. economy, from health plans to hospitals," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Sebelius.
Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee sent a separate letter to Sebelius, asking similar questions about her outreach to healthcare stakeholders on behalf of Enroll America.
"Currently, health insurers are seeking HHS approval to qualify for the health exchanges established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act so that they may attempt to sell their services to the public when enrollment begins in a few months," lawmakers wrote. "Your agency also has the power to review the insurance rates that providers wish to charge."
Energy and Commerce requested information about Sebelius's outreach to industry groups and whether any further efforts were made to enlist outside groups in the implementation effort.