At any other time in Barack Obama’s time as President, this might have qualified as a top priority for a Congressional probe. As it is, Kathleen Sebelius’ attempt to pressure insurers to fund a White House-linked organization as a means to save ObamaCare will have to wait while Congress tries to get to the bottom of at least three other scandals — Benghazi, the IRS, and the Department of Justice’s snooping on reporters. However, they shouldn’t ignore the Enroll America shakedown, say insurers:
The links between a nonprofit promoting President Obama’s healthcare law and the White House have created an “air of expectation” that insurers will contribute to the group, according to an insurance industry official.
Current and former administration officials have taken on leadership and fundraising roles for Enroll America, a nonprofit aiming to make sure people sign up for new coverage options. As the ties grow deeper, the organization has come to feel like “just an arm of the administration,” said one official who works closely with insurers.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has already come under fire from congressional Republicans because she has raised money for the organization.
Thanks to ObamaCare, Sebelius and HHS can deliver devastating impacts to insurers by delaying or denying approval of their health-insurance plans for federally-approved exchanges. After seeing what the IRS did with Tea Party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, insurers have to be doubly concerned about keeping Sebelius happy. A failure to support Enroll America might be the difference between profit and collapse, especially given the ambiguities and top-down control in the law that leaves most of the regulation to the whims of the HHS Secretary.
What are the ties between the White House and Enroll America that has insurers feeling pressured?
Several industry sources also believe the White House orchestrated a recent leadership change in which a former administration official took the reins of Enroll America. The group’s chairman disputed that account.
At the beginning of this year, Anne Filipic left the White House Office of Public Engagement to become president of Enroll America. …
Obama reportedly sat in for an hour-long meeting he was initially not scheduled to attend at all last month, and told insurance executives that the White House and the industry were now “joined at the hip” trying to make the healthcare law work.
Other big names from the administration have also pitched in to help raise money.
Nancy-Ann DeParle, a former White House deputy chief of staff and director of the White House healthcare office, has made fundraising calls on Enroll America’s behalf.
Yeah, hey … no pressure there. With those kind of connections, no one needs to even speak the words, “Nice business ya got there, kid. Shame if something happened to it.”
Joined at the hip indeed. It may take a while to get to this, but the House committee overseeing HHS should start preparing to investigate this shakedown scheme soon.