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Lawmakers demand PPACA answers

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Both Democrats and Republicans complained about the lack of information they’re getting from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about the public exchanges.

Lawmakers blasted HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the department’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal.

Committee members used the hearing to press for overall Medicare spending reform and promote their favorite causes, such as support for community health centers and family planning services.

Many – from both parties –thanked Sebelius for the hard work she and her department have put into trying to implement the Patient and Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Ron Kind, D-Ind., said of the PPACA implementation effort, “We didn’t think it would be easy, but it’s worth doing.”

Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., said PPACA is working well in his state and suggested Republicans ought to focus more on constructive efforts to address problems and less on mindless efforts to kill every character in the text of PPACA.

But Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said he believes the problems with exchange enrollment season reflect far more than problems with

Doggett said he’s been unable to get straight answers from HHS about how much money the exchange program vendors are getting per consumer enrolled, or even information about who’s responsible for coordinating in-person help for exchange users in Texas.

“We need a little more accountability,” Doggett said.

“I think you sense a growing lack of trust,” said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. “Word isn’t matching deed.”

Republicans on the committee were especially critical of a lack of information about paid commercial plan enrollment data coming from HHS.

Sebelius said efforts in states like Texas to slow enrollment have contributed to the kinds of consumer assistance problems Doggett has seen in his state.

She said HHS is unable to give information on paid exchange plan enrollment at this point because private companies – the plan issuers – are responsible for collecting the premium payments for federal exchange plans, and sold through most state exchanges.

“It begs credulity that you don’t know the answers to these questions” about paid enrollment, Price said.

The plan issuers are supposed to report enrollee tax credit information to the Internal Revenue Service.

Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., said one solution to the lack of paid plan enrollment data would be to create a special inspector general who would have the authority to get public exchange information from both HHS and the IRS.

“I don’t think that’s necessary,” Sebelius said, adding that creating a special inspector general would increase costs.

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