Sens. Lee, Cruz Send Tough Questions to HHS Nominee Burwell

Friday, 16 May 2014 08:06 PM

By Cathy Burke

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The road to confirmation may get a bit bumpier for President Barack Obama's nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary – conservative Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee want answers to some difficult questions before the Senate holds its vote.

In a letter Friday to Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Cruz, R-Texas, and Lee, R-Utah, asked her to explain in writing Obamacare's enrollment numbers, its cost, the employer mandate – and whether insurers on the exchanges will provide abortion services, The Hill reports.

"The implementation of Obamacare has been an unmitigated disaster under HHS's previous leadership," Lee wrote on his Senate website blog. "It is critical that before the next HHS secretary is approved, we have a frank and open discussion about how the administration plans to relieve the pain and confusion caused by this law."

Lee complains Burwell has been "less than forthcoming" in her testimony to Congress.

"So far, Ms. Burwell's testimony has been less than forthcoming and suggests she plans to follow the lead of her predecessor in blocking Congress's ability to do proper oversight for the American people," he wrote.

The senators have questions for Burwell that also relate to her time as Obama's budget director, as head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), The Hill reports.

For example, the senators want Burwell to explain how the OMB decided to exempt government subsidies from automatic budget cuts – known as sequestration – for customers on the healthcare exchanges.

"Under what legal authority did OMB take such action?" they ask.

They also want to know if the 8 million figure for enrollees in Obamacare takes into account duplicates, as insurance companies indicate; what percentage of those enrolled, broken down by age, have paid their first month's premium; and how many enrollees already had insurance.

The pair also want to get into the volatile issue of the delay of the employer mandate, and whether Burwell thinks it was politically motivated.

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