House Democrats launch inquiry into HHS stimulus payouts

House Democrats launch inquiry into HHS stimulus payouts
© Aaron Schwartz

Two House Democrats announced Friday they are launching an inquiry into whether the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) misallocated billions in coronavirus stimulus funds meant for hospitals and health care providers during the pandemic. 

Reps. Lloyd DoggettLloyd Alton DoggettGilead sets price for five-day coronavirus treatment at ,120 The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Mark Takano says Congress must extend worker benefits expiring in July; WHO reports record spike in global cases Exclusive investigation on the coronavirus pandemic: Where was Congress? MORE (D-Texas), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, and Katie Porter (D-Calif.), a member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, wrote to HHS Secretary Alex Azar that they had “deep concern” that $175 billion went to private companies and hospitals no longer in business and providers under investigation for fraud.

The two lawmakers pressed Azar for answers on the allocation of the funds, saying some organizations that received “improper” payments may not have reported or returned the money they received. 

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“Because some of those who received improper payments may have neither reported nor returned the misdirected funding, we seek to determine the magnitude of the HHS failure and what steps have been undertaken to assure complete restitution. Additionally, we are concerned that providers under investigation for civil or criminal fraud have also received federal funding,” they wrote.

“In this time of great need, we must ensure federal funding intended to support health care providers reaches those who need it most," they added. "It is critical that HHS not only account for and recover funds allocated erroneously through careless implementation, but also take steps to ensure future allocations are not plagued by the same mistakes.” 

The letter comes after a report showing that HHS had sent Medicare providers under criminal and civil investigations stimulus money. 

“Funds meant for frontliners went to hospitals previously closed, mega-corporations, and possible fraudsters,” Doggett said in a statement.

“The Trump Administration should immediately provide a full accounting of how these millions landed, as they so often do with this Administration, in the pockets of corporate interests and those under investigation for fraud,” he added.

HHS acknowledged the letter from Porter and Doggett in a statement to The Hill and added that they will maintain open lines of communication with members of Congress. 

"We have received a number of letters from Congress on COVID-19, and the Department is working to respond. We continue to maintain an open line of communication with Members of Congress, including briefings for members of both the House and Senate, while helping coordinate the response to the public health emergency," an HHS spokesperson said via email.