A former White House aide who played a central role in pushing President Obama’s health care overhaul through Congress during his first term is soliciting insurers for big donations to help implement the law.
Nancy-Ann DeParle, who headed the White House Office of Health Reform until leaving government in January, is asking several health insurance companies to pony up $1 million or more to Enroll America, a nonprofit organization promoting enrollment in the new subsidized insurance markets, according to a report in Politico.
As a private citizen, Ms. Deparle can raise funds for causes that are near and dear to President Obama, but her efforts to target insurance companies for seven-figure donations raise conflict-of-interest questions about a heavily regulated industry having a direct hand in boosting the president’s signature achievement. The fundraising efforts also demonstrate the deep concerns the administration has about the law’s implementation this fall.
Republicans in Congress have blocked attempts to provide additional resources to implement the law, and prominent Democrats also have objected. Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who chairs a key Senate health committee, briefly placed a hold on Mr. Obama’s nominee to head Medicare and Medicaid to underscore his frustration with the administration’s raid of a fund established by the health care law to pay for prevention and public health programs.
HHS had siphoned more than $300 million from the fund to implement the health care overhaul, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius justified the action by accusing Congress of underfunding the law’s launch.
Congressional Republicans also are training their sights on investigating Ms. Sebelius over whether she broke federal law in her own effort to raise private money to help the launch.
Mrs. Sebelius asked H&R Block and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to donate to Enroll America, and has reached out to industry groups more generally about supporting the law. HHS has defended her actions by saying she did not solicit funds from entities her department regulates.