3 House Republicans Ask For GAO Report On CMS Spending

Three House Ways and Means Committee Republicans have asked the Government Accountability Office to review money spent by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on programs not related to Medicare and Medicaid.

Photo by Karl Eisenhower/KHN

In January 2011, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, one of several agencies charged with implementing the health law, would be moved from her office into CMS. The reorganization,  Sebelius wrote, was done to improve implementation of the health law and to create “administrative savings and organizational efficiencies.”  The agency was renamed the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, or CCIIO.

In their letter Thursday, the House Republicans suggested a different motive for the shift. “We suspect what precipitated this reorganization was the desire by Obama Administration officials to tap into the significant financial resources at CMS’ disposal.”  In a news release, the lawmakers said the change “has raised concerns that CCIIO’s spending will be more difficult to track, and, that absent such transparency, the agency will use Medicare and Medicaid funds to cover the costs of implementing the health care law.” The GOP-controlled House has voted 33 times to repeal all or sections of the health law or to defund its implementation.

“CMS currently serves nearly 100 million of America’s most vulnerable – seniors, those with disabilities, and the poor,” the Republicans wrote to GAO. “We are concerned that the diversion of funds and other resources that are intended to serve these vulnerable populations will have far reaching consequences on Medicare and Medicaid program operations.”

The letter, signed by committee chairman Dave Camp of Michigan and subcommittee chairs Wally Herger of California and Charles Boustany of Louisiana, asked the GAO to examine several areas, including how much CCIIO has spent so far, as well as the sources of those funds, how much it has spent so far to implement the health law and what those expenditures will be through 2014, when major provisions of the health law go into effect.

The Republicans also want information on staff salaries, advertising, polling and focus groups, travel-related expenses and conferences, and they asked the GAO to provide the information no later than Oct. 15.