Rep. Charles Boustany is asking U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to tell him about HHS communications spending.
Boustany, R-La., chairman of the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, is seeking information about HHS spending on contracts for "public relations, advertising, polling, message testing and similar services" awarded on or after Jan. 1, 2008.
Boustany is asking for the copies of all work product produced under the contracts, the type of competition under which each contract was awarded, and the name of the agency that awarded each contract.
Boustany says in a news release announcing the letter that he is sending it in response to news reports on HHS spending related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA).
Boustany cites reports that HHS has spend $20 million on a PPACA-related preventive services benefits campaign and $1 million on postcards informing small business owners about their eligibility for the new PPACA small business health insurance premium tax credit program.
Boustany says he believes HHS probably has spent more on polling, message development and focus groups related to efforts to set up the new PPACA health insurance exchanges.
In the past year, Boustay and Republican Ways and Means colleagues also have raised questions about the AARP Medicare supplement insurance program, the rules that apply to consumers' use of flexible spending account cash, and Internal Revenue Service efforts to regulate tax-exempt hospitals.
HHS declined to comment specifically on the letter.
Section 4004 of PPACA authorizes HHS to conduct a public education campaign to encourage use of preventive benefits and services, an HHS officials said in a general statement about HHS communications programs.
“This public education campaign is part of our ongoing education efforts that will inform the American people about the steps they can take to prevent disease and illness and stay healthy,” the official said.