Donors for Obamacare Promotion Skittish Following GOP Pressure

Image: Donors for Obamacare Promotion Skittish Following GOP Pressure Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Monday, 20 May 2013 09:07 AM

By Lisa Barron

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Large corporations and nonprofit groups are reportedly hesitant about contributing to a program aimed at encouraging millions of people to sign up for health insurance under Obamacare after an outcry by Republican lawmakers.

Reports emerged earlier this month that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was soliciting private donations for Enroll America, a nonprofit, outside group led by former Obama White House and campaign officials that was created to locate and help uninsured Americans sign up for Obamacare.

Two House committees have begun investigating Sebelius' fundraising efforts, while five senior GOP legislators from both the House and the Senate have asked Gene Dodaro, the comptroller general of the United States, to investigate her actions to determine if they improperly circumvent spending limits imposed by Congress, according to The New York Times.

One of the House panels, the Energy and Commerce Committee, has also called on health insurance companies to provide records of any contact with administration officials looking for money or other help to carry out the healthcare reform law, reports the newspaper.

A federal health official told the Times that potential donors to Enroll America have become “gun-shy” because of the Republican criticism, while a person involved in raising money for the organization said that many private groups "are risk-averse and do not want to be involved in anything controversial."

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso and Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston, both Republicans, told the Times that Sebelius seems to be "shaking down" businesses and other possible donors.

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, the senior Republican on the Senate Health committee, said the administration was "undercutting the Congressional power of the purse by circuitously exceeding the amount Congress has appropriated" for informing the public about Obamacare by going to private donors.

But House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California defended Sebelius' actions as appropriate because "we have a responsibility to do outreach" to make sure people who are entitled to benefits sign up to receive them.

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