Republicans demand HHS documents on healthcare PR 'guerilla campaign'

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services could be subpoenaed if it doesn't disclose information on whether the agency used taxpayer dollars to fund a PR campaign to promote President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday, for the third time in two weeks, threatened to subpoena HHS, according to The Hill's Healthwatch.

Calling it a "big guerilla campaign splash," Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Oversight Subcommittee Chair Charles Boustany (R-La.) wrote to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, suggesting HHS was using taxpayer money on public relations, advertisements, polling and other message testing to promote the administration's initiatives, including health insurance exchanges.

It's been 20 weeks since House Republicans first asked for documentation, Politico reported.

"Either the department is unable to keep track of the work products it buys with taxpayer dollars or the department is trying to delay any response until after this year's election," Camp and Boustany wrote. "Neither explanation is acceptable."

HHS has signed a $20-million contract to raise awareness of preventive services and another $3-million contract on insurance exchanges, according to The Hill.

This isn't the first time HHS has been under the microscope for using allegedly public funds to push a political agenda this election season. Last month, Sebelius admitted she violated the Hatch Act when she called for Obama's re-election during a speech at the Human Rights Campaign Gala, thereby breaking federal law that prohibits certain political activity by government employees. HHS reclassified the trip as political and reimbursed the U.S. Treasury for her travel expenses.

For more information:
- see the letter (.pdf)
- read the Hill's Healthwatch article
- here's the Politico article

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