U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday she didn't ask companies regulated by her department for money to help a private nonprofit group implement President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law. But she admits calling three companies--Johnson & Johnson, the drug maker; Ascension Health, a large Roman Catholic healthcare system; and Kaiser Permanente, the health insurer--asking for their support.
"I have made two calls involving funding, to Robert Wood Johnson [Foundation] and H&R Block, neither of whom are under the regulatory authority of our office," Sebelius said in testimony before a House of Representatives oversight committee, according to Reuters.
The calls she made to Johnson & Johnson, Ascension Health and Kaiser Permanente, all healthcare companies her department regulates, were on behalf of Enroll America but Sebelius said she did not ask them for financial donations. Instead, she urged them to support the nonprofit's work.
Her testimony also included statements that she never discussed the phone calls with the Obama administration. Instead, she said Enroll America, the group established to educate the public about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and help the uninsured sign up for health coverage, asked her to make the calls.
Sebelius said no federal law prevents her from trying to solicit donations from companies regulated by her department, The New York Times reports, but she voluntarily decided not to make fundraising appeals.
The Obama administration says it needs private support for the healthcare reform law because Congress provided less money than requested for a public education and outreach campaign. Congressional Republicans, who vehemently oppose the law, have questioned Sebelius' actions, stating she tried to skirt limits on spending set by Congress.