Sen. Alexander: Obamacare Fundraising 'May Be Illegal'

Image: Sen. Alexander: Obamacare Fundraising 'May Be Illegal'

Saturday, 11 May 2013 07:30 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee charged on Saturday that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius might have broken the law by asking insurance companies to donate to outside groups promoting Obamacare.

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“Secretary Sebelius’s fundraising for and coordinating with private entities helping to implement the new healthcare law may be illegal, should cease immediately and should be fully investigated by Congress,” the Republican senator said in a statement.

On Friday, The Washington Post reported that Sebelius began soliciting insurance companies via telephone starting around March 23, in which she asked for financial donations to help implement Obamacare.

The HHS secretary also called companies in other industries, as well as healthcare providers, patient-advocacy groups, churches, and other charitable organizations.

“The secretary has been working with a full range of stakeholders,” Jason Young, an HHS spokesman, told the Post. “We have always worked with outside groups, and the efforts now ramping up are just one more part of that work.”

HHS declined to identify the targeted donors but told the Post that none of the companies were regulated by department agencies.

The Obama administration's aim is to win financial help for nonprofit groups, including the Washington-based Enroll America.

The organizations are mounting a private-sector effort to persuade millions of uninsured Americans to obtain health coverage in 2014 through new online marketplaces, known as exchanges, slated to begin enrollment for federally subsidized private insurance on Oct. 1.

The exchanges are scheduled to begin operating on Jan. 1, 2014, when the healthcare law comes into full force.

Alexander on Saturday likened the solicitation effort to the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan White House.

Lt. Col. Oliver North, who served on President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council, raised money and directed it to Nicaraguan rebels.

Congress said the fundraising was illegal if it used a private entity that “is in reality an arm of the government,” The Hill reports.

“If the Department of Health and Human Services closely coordinates with Enroll America and with other such entities, then the legal analogy with Iran-Contra is strong,” Alexander said in the statement.

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He added that Sebelius might also have violated federal law that prohibits government employees from raising money from the groups they regulate.

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