Nine questions for HHS nominee Sylvia Burwell

posted at 12:41 pm on April 15, 2014 by Guy Benson

Kathleen Sebelius — in somewhat sudden and appropriately inept form — is out at HHS. Pending Senate confirmation, current White House budget chief Sylvia Mathews Burwell is in.  As Republicans prepare to cross-examine the president’s nominee, they are reportedly intent on using the opportunity to once again shine the spotlight on Democrats’ unpopular healthcare overhaul.  This strategy makes sense, if carried out adroitly.  GOP questioners should avoid the appearance of bullying, which could come in the form of obnoxiously spiking the football on Sebelius’ tarnished legacy, or unfairly holding the failures of Burwell’s predecessor against her.  Questions ought to be methodical and forward-looking; designed to shine the light on how Obamacare will continue to impact the American people, rather than to settle old scores.  A few modest suggestions:

(1) Now that [X weeks] have elapsed since the administration announced that 7.5 million Americans selected plans through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces, can you tell us how many of those people have paid their premiums, and are therefore covered?  Was Sec. Sebelius’ comment that up to one-fifth of those “enrollments” may have been unpaid an accurate estimate?  Can you tell us what percentage of the “newly” enrolled lacked coverage prior to the law’s implementation?*  Even if you don’t have official, finalized data, three separate independent studies have pegged that number between 25 and 33 percent.  Is that in the right ballpark, at least?  Finally, how many of the (paid) enrollees were so-called “young invincibles“?  How many were older and sicker than expected?

(2) Sec. Sebelius acknowledged that healthcare premiums will rise in 2015, but downplayed the increases as “far less significant” than they’ve been in the past.  Has this administration abandoned the promise that “everybody” will see their health costs reduced by $2,500 “per family, per year” on average as a result of the Affordable Care Act?  Also, The Hill and Reuters have reported that Sebelius’ characterizations were hotly disputed by insurance industry sources, who will be setting premium rates for next year.  Whom should Americans believe?  Has the Affordable Care Act bent the overall US healthcare cost curve down — yes or no?  (If Burwell goes down this predictable route to evade the question, Republicans should query her on this).

(3) An estimated 5.1 to 6.2 million Americans received cancellation notices from their existing coverage providers last year.  Will any more Americans receive similar letters in the future?  If so, can you estimate how many?  Mid-range internal White House estimates projected that up to 93 million Americans would ultimately lose “grandfathered” status under the law.  Does that number strike you as realistic?

(4) Sec. Sebelius stated earlier this year that “there is absolutely no evidence” that the Affordable Care Act is having a negative impact on America’s employment picture.  Do you accept the findings of a recent Congressional Budget Office report, which found that the new law is slowing growth and hiring, while substantially shrinking the US workforce?  How much will the Affordable Care Act cost taxpayers between 2014 and 2023?

(5) We understand that you played no role in the failed roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.  Sec. Sebelius admitted in mid-April that the implementation timeline was “flat out wrong,” so time management was clearly an issue.  In your role as OMB director, President Obama’s FY 2015 budget proposal was delivered more than one month past its statutory deadline — as were three of his previous four offerings (over which you did not preside).  How did the process you oversaw fall so far behind schedule?  Do deadlines matter?

(6) A former Obama administration spokesman recently stated that the Affordable Care Act’s twice-delayed employer mandate will “be one of the first things to go.”  Does the executive branch have the legal authority to unilaterally delay, or even jettison, elements of a law that has been duly passed by Congress and signed by the president?  What is the legal justification for the previous two postponements of the employer mandate, for instance?

(7) Our colleagues on the Democratic side of the aisle are talking a lot about “fixing” the Affordable Care Act.  What are three significant fixes to the law you’d recommend to Congress?

(8) Is Medicare facing a solvency crisis?  If so, what specific solutions does the budget you helped produce recommend to protect the program for future seniors?

(9) Via Marc Thiessen:

The agency Burwell heads, the Office of Management and Budget, is responsible for the president’s budget. But OMB also has another, lesser-known responsibility: fact-checking presidential speeches. Every proposed presidential utterance is scrubbed for accuracy by OMB…Thanks to Burwell’s nomination, Americans may finally get to the bottom of how the biggest presidential lie in recent memory made it though OMB’s fact-checking process — not once but dozens of times. The first time the lie surfaced — when Obama told the American Medical Association on June 15, 2009, “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what” — it wasn’t on Burwell’s watch. But Burwell was OMB director when Obama declared on Sept. 26, 2013: “Now, let’s start with the fact that even before the Affordable Care Act fully takes effect, about 85 percent of Americans already have health insurance — either through their job, or through Medicare, or through the individual market. So if you’re one of these folks, it’s reasonable that you might worry whether health-care reform is going to create changes that are a problem for you — especially when you’re bombarded with all sorts of fear-mongering. So the first thing you need to know is this: If you already have health care, you don’t have to do anything.” Burwell should explain to Congress and the American people how her office allowed blatant falsehoods to get into presidential speeches, including whether political aides overruled career policy advisers who warned that the president’s claims were untrue.

We’ll see if Burwell answers any of these questions directly.  Based on her exchange with Sen. Jeff Sessions in March, don’t hold your breath:

*I changed the wording of this question for clarity.


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10. when are you going to resign?

gerrym51 on April 15, 2014 at 12:45 PM

(7) Our colleagues on the Democratic side of the aisle are talking a lot about “fixing” the Affordable Care Act. What are three significant fixes to the law you’d recommend to Congress?

Be at the ready with bills already passed through the House that address each “fix”.

forest on April 15, 2014 at 12:46 PM

If she refused to appear, the Dem’s would still vote for her confirmation … so, what’s the point what difference, at this point, does it make

ShainS on April 15, 2014 at 12:46 PM

1: have you stopped beating your husband yet?
2: have you stopped having an affair with obama yet?
3: have you stopped having an affair with holder yet?
4: did you pay your fair share of taxes or did you allw an accountant to process your forms to get you the most money possible?

repeat as needed.

dmacleo on April 15, 2014 at 12:47 PM

I don’t recall.

Sven on April 15, 2014 at 12:51 PM

10. Can you lie through your teeth with a straight face?

fogw on April 15, 2014 at 12:52 PM

HotAir Staff – today is 1) tax day, 2)Boston Marathon bombing anniversary, 3) NY deadline for “assault rifle” registration – and these are the best threads you can put out?

dentarthurdent on April 15, 2014 at 12:53 PM

10. Will you get used to being referred to Queen of Death 2.0?

11. Will you report to the hoosegow immediately to serve your well deserved life term?

22044 on April 15, 2014 at 12:56 PM

GOP questioners should avoid the appearance of bullying,

About the only way to avoid being accused of bullying would be to only ask her if she wants a back rub.

CurtZHP on April 15, 2014 at 12:56 PM

No barricade questions?

Fallon on April 15, 2014 at 12:56 PM

Who told you to dig through Vince Foster’s trash the night he committed suicide?

Blacksheep on April 15, 2014 at 12:56 PM

This woman is yet another Rotten parasite to throw on the pile..

…oh, do people realize this woman is the person who
actually ordered the WWII Memorial to be shut down during
the sequester?

What say you Republicans in the Senate? Anyone willing to
step up, and throw this in her face??

Yeah, I didn’t think so….other than Cruz…and Lee…and
possibly Rand…..

ToddPA on April 15, 2014 at 12:59 PM

Can you tell us what percentage of the “newly” enrolled had coverage prior to the law’s implementation? Even if you don’t have official, finalized data, three separate independent studies have pegged that number between 25 and 33 percent. Is that in the ballpark?

Your wording is not correct… The studies showed that only 25 to 33% of the newly enrolled were previously uninsured where as the vast majority of newly enrolled 67% to 75% were previously insured prior to Obamacare… Of course not considering people who enrolled in Medicaid…

mnjg on April 15, 2014 at 1:02 PM

It’s still a bloody trainwreck…

sorrowen on April 15, 2014 at 1:07 PM

Dem questions:

1. Being a Leftist woman, and therefore a hero, just how great are you?

2. Now that the Great and Glorious People’s 5-Year Insurance Plan is the law of the land, just how great are you?

3. How does it feel to be a hero?

4. Just how awesome is it that single women can get insurance which allows them to control their reproductive lives, thus making them all heroes?

5. How will you stop the Koch Brothers from forcing women to get pregnant and being punished by bringing children to term, thus preventing them from becoming heroes?

mankai on April 15, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Doesn’t matter. She doesn’t have any real healthcare experience. The healthcare industry is going to have a buttload of questions about following her lead on much of anything.

She’s just another “potential loose cannon with excessive emphasis on business and/or cost factors” from a providers point of view.

Risk impact at provider level just went up a few notches.

lineholder on April 15, 2014 at 1:09 PM

HotAir Staff – today is 1) tax day, 2)Boston Marathon bombing anniversary, 3) NY deadline for “assault rifle” registration – and these are the best threads you can put out?

1) We know, master of the bleedin’ obvious (Hat Tip: UK). 2) We did not do the bombing and were even against it. 3) I’m sure John Gotti’s Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Ozone Park, Queens needs a quorum to start the emergency meeting, so take the A train.

cbenoistd on April 15, 2014 at 1:11 PM

Why aren’t you wearing any clothes ?

Lucano on April 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM

Why are they bothering to ask her anything? She’s going to be confirmed easily with few republicans voting against her no matter what.

xblade on April 15, 2014 at 1:19 PM

In your role as OMB director, President Obama’s FY 2015 budget proposal was delivered more than one month past its statutory deadline — as were three of his previous four offerings (over which you did not preside).

10) In your role as OMB director, you approved President Obama’s FY 2015 budget proposal, which was approved by only two members of the House of Representatives, and disapproved by over 190 members of the President’s own party.

How can you demonstrate to this Congress, who represent the American people, that you will allocate the spending of their money wisely if you are confirmed as HHS Secretary?

Steve Z on April 15, 2014 at 1:23 PM

Burwell isn’t cut out for this sort of work. Notice in the clip how harried and nutty she looks, like she’s on the verge of hysteria. She knows she’s doing wrong and she knows we know it, as well.

A Stephanie-Cutter-pure-unalloyed-evil-type would fill the bill.

MisterElephant on April 15, 2014 at 1:23 PM

mnjg, you’re absolutely right. I’ve changed the wording & made a note. Thanks.

Guy Benson on April 15, 2014 at 1:26 PM

13.) As head of the office of management and budget and considering we have had no approved budget in your tenure: What have you accomplished since joining the Obama administration?

Follow up: How much tax payer money did you receive in salary and bonuses since joining the administration?

tej on April 15, 2014 at 1:34 PM

Mr Benson, those questions all constitute “bullying”. So the Republican cross-examiners will have to exclude each and every one.

listens2glenn on April 15, 2014 at 1:38 PM

Take the toothless contempt vote now and save time.

IndieDogg on April 15, 2014 at 1:41 PM

But it’s already been established that Burwell is the greatest thing since sliced bread. John McCain said so. So GOP meanies have to shut up now, or else they will be even more waronwomen doubledown meanies. Everyone knows that.

ncinca on April 15, 2014 at 1:50 PM

10). In your role as OMB Director you ordered the shutdown of monuments during the government shutdown. How do you justify treating WWII veterans the way you did? How do you justify the spiteful way you orchestrated those closures. Why should you be named HHS director when you clearly despise Americans?

Happy Nomad on April 15, 2014 at 1:52 PM

Straight from the Bundy Ranch story comes this unhappy story that I’m sure the Administration had wished was left forgotten.
Expect the new HHS Secretary nominee to get questions about this story …

Federal funds are running out at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center and officials plan to close the site and euthanize hundreds of the tortoises they’ve been caring for since the animals were added to the endangered species list in 1990. “It’s the lesser of two evils, but it’s still evil,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service desert tortoise recovery coordinator Roy Averill-Murray during a visit to the soon-to-be-shuttered reserve at the southern edge of the Las Vegas Valley last week.

… an endangered species euthanize because of the Sequestration, and who at OMB was in charge of the Administration’s response to the Sequestration ? Sylvia Burwell, the HHS nominee, that’s who. She already has experience with “death panels.”

J_Crater on April 15, 2014 at 1:54 PM

#1 Why were you at a dead man’s house rummaging through his garbage?

#2 Why do you hate veterans?

#3 How does this qualify you to fix the broken ObamaCare system?

faraway on April 15, 2014 at 1:54 PM

HotAir Staff – today is 1) tax day, 2)Boston Marathon bombing anniversary, 3) NY deadline for “assault rifle” registration – and these are the best threads you can put out?

dentarthurdent on April 15, 2014 at 12:53 PM

None of them have teh ghey.

Nutstuyu on April 15, 2014 at 1:55 PM

J_Crater on April 15, 2014 at 1:54 PM

#4 Would the Desert Tortoise still be in existence if it were not for your orders?

faraway on April 15, 2014 at 1:59 PM

We are shocked! Asking questions of such a well-qualified female nominee as Ms. Burwell, is further evidence of the GOP’s War on Women.

The only problems with Obamacare are due to Republican obstructionism, Republican racism, and rich Republicans wanting the poor and sick to just die.

There is no valid reason for Ms. Burwell to have to answer any questions from Republican Senators.

Posted by: ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, NYT, Washington Post, Politico Huffington Post (these comments are fully approved by the White House)

pilsener on April 15, 2014 at 2:03 PM

HHS nominee Sylvia Burwell

What a surprise. We continue to be ruled by women.

Also, Senators, do not “grill” her. She’s a woman, you misogynists. You might upset her.

Nomennovum on April 15, 2014 at 2:05 PM

…another question:

What was your, and your agency’s involvement with the barricading of normally accessible areas in DC, and throughout the country, by the National Park Service Police during the Shutdown of ’13.

Another Drew on April 15, 2014 at 2:13 PM

mnjg, you’re absolutely right. I’ve changed the wording & made a note. Thanks.

Guy Benson on April 15, 2014 at 1:26 PM

Excellent and you are welcome…

mnjg on April 15, 2014 at 2:15 PM

10. What did you find in Vince Foster’s garbage?
11. Who sent you to dig through it?

mrt721 on April 15, 2014 at 2:22 PM

Only need to ask her one question :

“What makes you think you can save the suckiest government program in the
history of government suctitude?”

MichaelGabriel on April 15, 2014 at 3:45 PM

Looking at the linking photo on the home page, I wonder…

Mr Obama often will introduce a woman, & then give her a peck on the cheek as she takes the podium.

When will he start kissing men on the cheek?

If he won’t, why not?

Sexist!

itsnotaboutme on April 15, 2014 at 3:57 PM

What is it like working with a world class narcissist?

Will you continue with the White House ‘War on Women’ theme?

What coverage can you offer this Adminisration if they get shellacked in the upcoming elections?

Are you responsible for The Obama Shuffle? That is were the position of the TOTUS is characterized as: I did not know, ergo it is not my fault.

Of the following which is the answer to the question:
Where is Waldo?
a) On the golf course
b) At a fund raiser
c) Blaming Bush

Missilengr on April 15, 2014 at 4:21 PM

Answers: Take your pick.

I don’t know.
No one has told me.
I don’t know.
The system doesn’t capture that information.
I don’t know.
You’re asking only because you hate ObamaCare and are Racist!
I don’t know.

GarandFan on April 15, 2014 at 7:13 PM

Ask Syliva Burwell 10 questions about Vince Foster. Burwell’s Never been questioned under oath about Vince Foster.

mathewsjw on April 15, 2014 at 8:36 PM