Ever wonder what was behind the Trump administration’s decision to pull back advertising promotion of HealthCare.gov in the waning days of open enrollment? How about what U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials were really saying about the Affordable Care Act during those frantic days leading to the failed efforts to change the ACA earlier this year?
If so, a handful of Washington lawyers may soon have the answers to your questions. A nonprofit group of five former government attorneys — most of whom also have Big Law experience — that launched last month will use the federal Freedom of Information Act to unearth emails and other documents that would, as the organization’s leader put it, “line up what [HHS and other regulators] are saying privately with what they are saying publicly.”
“A fundamental theory of ours is that if you can show how people in power are operating, it will have serious impacts on families’ lives. It will matter,” added Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, who most recently served as senior counsel for oversight and transparency matters at the U.S. Department of State and prior to that as a litigator at Williams & Connolly.
In the health care space, one inquiry began for American Oversight with a request for ACA-change-related communications between leaders of Congress and those of HHS and the Office of Management and Budget. Evers predicts the results from the request “will show what they really thought and provide insight into what the real deal on health care is.”
“I’m guessing it doesn’t match the talking points,” he said. “In that state of fervor, the [Trump] administration probably could not have conducted itself with great email hygiene.”