House lawmaker requests documents about HHS scrubbing ACA information from websites

Elijah Cummings has asked HHS for documents on several occasions but has been repeatedly rebuffed. (AFGE/CC BY 2.0)

The ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is doubling down on a request to Trump administration officials to explain why they are pulling information about the Affordable Care Act from government websites.

In a letter (PDF) to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., asked the agencies to turn over all documentation related to the removal of information of federally maintained websites including Medicare.gov.

Cummings argued the removal of ACA-related information could be a violation of the Paperwork Reduction Act, which requires agencies to provide adequate notice before "modifying or terminating significant information dissemination products." Cummings referenced an investigation by the Sunlight Investigation in May which discovered a web page referencing the ACA was removed from Medicare’s website in December 2017.

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“The deletion of this information may violate federal law, which requires public notice before removing public information,” he wrote. “Deleting this information appears to be another attempt by the Trump Administration to undermine the ACA, and it contradicts the Department’s core mission to ‘enhance the health and well-being of all Americans.’”

It’s not the first time Cummings has made such a request. In April he asked (PDF) HHS to provide documents related to its decision to remove information about breast cancer and preventative services from its website. HHS refused to provide the documents.

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Cummings has also requested the House committee subpoena HHS for documents associated with proposed changes to the Title X family planning program after several previous requests were ignored. 

In his most recent letter, Cummings again requested agency communications dating back to January 2017, along with any audits of website content. He asked that HHS and CMS provide the information by Aug. 21.

CMS spokesperson Jonathan Monroe said the agency received the letter and "will respond accordingly." HHS did not respond to a request for comment.