Republican House investigators say the Treasury Department is stonewalling their requests for detailed information about how and when the Obama administration decided to extend government subsidies to consumers who will use federally run insurance markets under Obamacare.
Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, joined Rep. James Lankford, Oklahoma Republican, health subcommittee chairman, on Thursday in demanding 50 emails and documents that may shed light on how the Treasury reached its decision.
The lawmakers and other critics of the Affordable Care Act say the administration is flouting the letter of its own law, which says tax credits intended to help people buy insurance should go to exchanges “established by the State.”
Officials in more than half of the states opted to let the federal government run their state-based exchange, where people without employer-based insurance will buy coverage with the help of tax credits, instead of taking on the responsibility themselves.
Treasury’s decision to extend tax credits to all of the exchanges is “inconsistent with the plain statutory language that restricted the availability of tax credits to exchanges established by States,” Mr. Issa and Mr. Lankford wrote to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Thursday. “To date, the Treasury Department has provided very little information to support the Administration’s assertion that it ‘carefully considered the language of the statute and the legislative history’ in coming to its decision to expand ObamaCare.”
For its part, the administration says it has interpreted the law appropriately, and that Congress would never have intended to treat some states differently than others.
But Mr. Issa complained Thursday that prior written submissions and testimony to his committee has produced little of value.
“In total, Treasury only produced 17 pages of material relevant to the Committees’ oversight … Treasury’s production does not include a single document or communication created prior to the publication of the proposed rule on August 17, 2011,” they wrote.
Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt and a coalition of small-business owners in states that deferred to a federal exchange have sued the administration, separately, saying their states had the right to reject the subsidies.
They also say the extension of subsidies to federally run exchanges exposes their states to the employer mandate, which requires companies of 50 or more full-time workers to provide adequate health coverage of pay fines. The fines kick in when at least one employee takes advantage of subsides on the exchange.
The White House announced July 2 it planned to delay the employer mandate by one year, to 2015.