Did HHS solicit donations from insurers to help promote health law?

Republican lawmakers are trying to discern whether the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has been requesting insurers donate money to help it promote the reform law and the health insurance exchanges, in particular.

HHS Spokesperson Jason Young disclosed that Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been in touch with healthcare companies, private foundations and businesses in other industries since late March, requesting they provide donations to Enroll America, a non-profit group that promotes health reform, Bloomberg reported.

And although Young said Sebelius' fundraising efforts are legal and haven't included any direct communications with companies HHS oversees, several GOP lawmakers want proof that she didn't potentially violate a law preventing her from soliciting businesses regulated by her own agency, according to The Hill's Healthwatch.

"Companies and organizations should never be pressured for money because it sends the message that contributions are necessary to secure favorable regulatory decisions--creating a 'pay to play' environment--or to avoid regulatory reprisals," Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee said in a letter to Sebelius.

Meanwhile, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., requested that HHS identify companies and organizations from which it has requested donations. The House Energy and Commerce Committee also wrote to several insurers, including Aetna, Cigna, Coventry Health Care, Humana, UnitedHealth and WellPoint, asking whether they have received fundraising calls from Sebelius, reported Reuters.

To learn more:
- read the Bloomberg article
- see the Reuters article
- check out The Hill's Healthwatch article