GOP report blasts Obama admin for unauthorized ACA spending

Capitol building in Washington, DC

A scathing new report from House Republican leaders claims the Obama administration illegally authorized funding for Affordable Care Act subsidies and then went to “great lengths” to obstruct a congressional investigation into the source of the funding.

The joint investigation, conducted by representatives of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, outlined the “unconstitutional” process by which the White House secured funding for the ACA's cost-sharing reduction (CSR) program. Although Congress approved a tax credit program that would assist consumers with premiums, the report argues that no funds were approved to cover the CSR program, which has spent $7 billion to date.

According to the report, the Obama administration submitted a $3.9 billion budget request to Congress to fund the program in 2013, but later withdrew the request during a phone conversation with the staff director of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Shortly after, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) developed a memorandum, with guidance from then-Attorney General Eric Holder, to fund the program through an account initially established to make premium tax credit payments.

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In sworn testimony, former IRS Financial Risk Officer David Fisher recounted a secret meeting with administration officials in which he raised concerns about CSR funding. But, according to the report, OMB officials ignored those concerns and moved forward with the plan.

The administration refused to comply with the subsequent congressional investigation, citing the ongoing House v. Burwell lawsuit that “effectively preempts any oversight.”

In May, a district judge sided with House Republicans in the case, ruling that the cost-sharing subsidies were illegal. The administration filed an appeal to the decision on Wednesday, according to the New York Times.

In a press release, Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) said they had been met by “repeated roadblocks” during the investigation into the “administration’s decision to unconstitutionally fund the CSR program without an appropriation from Congress.”

Research shows that in 2016, nearly 14 million individuals qualified for CSR payments, leading to an average savings of $479 per year. Given the persistent pushback from House Republicans, many insurers are already preparing for the implications of a GOP president that would cut off the subsidies.

For more:

- read the congressional report

- here’s the release

- read the NYT article