Jim Esquea (House Oversight hearing screen capture)

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform, today blasted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for failing to provide documents the committee had requested through letters as well as a subpoena.

See also: GOP: We need PPACA cost-reduction subsidy information

The committee has been seeking information about the status of 11 surviving Consumer Operated and Oriented Program (CO-OP) carriers. Twelve of the CO-OP carriers, which were started with loans provided through a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) provision, have failed since they came to life in January 2014. Eight of the remaining carriers are operating under corrective action plans set up by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

CMS is the HHS arm that oversees the CO-OP program and other PPACA programs that affect the commercial health insurance market. 

Jim Esquea, the assistant secretary for legislation at HHS, told Chaffetz at a hearing on federal agency document production, which was held in Washington and streamed live on the Internet, that HHS has provided about 30,000 pages of CO-OP documents since November, and will give members private access to other, unredacted documents at other times. Esquea said members of his staff will meet with members of the House Oversight staff later this week to see what questions remain unanswered.

Chaffetz said providing access to documents is not the same as providing documents, and that HHS has still not answered the committee’s questions. “At least tell us what’s happening with the recoupment of the taxpayer dollars” lent to the CO-OPs that failed, he said.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said he is still looking for answers to basic questions such as how many of the surviving CO-OPs with corrective action plans CMS has visited in person.

“You can’t even tell me which of those 11 you went out to visit,” Jordan said.

“We are working to get that information for you from CMS,” Esquea said.

“That seems problematic,” Jordan said. “You should be able to tell me which you went out to visit.”

Esquea said many of the documents are market-sensitive. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., said the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) had asked the committee to avoid releasing confidential information that could hurt the CO-OPs and give a misleading view of their operations by exposing information about the corrective action plans that apply to the CO-OPs without providing information about the corrective action plans that CMS has imposed on Medicare Advantage issuers.

Chaffetz said the CO-OP information the committee wants is embarrassing, not sensitive.

“This thing is a complete and total failure,” Chaffetz said. 

See also: 

PPACA boss silent on future state-based exchange sustainability

CMS: HealthCare.gov small-group activity is far below expectations

    

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