CREDIT: Department of Health and Human Services
Republican lawmakers who had criticized the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for improperly targeting conservative nonprofits for additional scrutiny kicked off an investigation last week into community-based groups who received Navigator grants to help uninsured people enroll in the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act, demanding that the organizations answer detailed questions and produce thousands of reams of documents.
Fifteen Republican members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, including Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), are requesting detailed responses and thousands of pages of documents from approximately 60 percent of Navigator-recipients across the country by Sep. 13.
The tactic is reminiscent of the kind of practices Republicans had condemned over the summer, after news broke that the IRS subjected certain groups applying for 501 C4 nonprofit tax status to long, intrusive, questionnaires about their filings. Upton personally called such tactics a “thuggish abuse of power” and “simply un-American.”
But according to the GOP-backed letter, groups scrambling to begin enrolling individuals in coverage on Oct. 1, will have just two weeks to provide detailed written descriptions of their employees and activities, interactions with the Department of Health and Human Services, and “all documentation and communication related to your grant.”
Last month, the Obama administration distributed $67 million in federal grants to more than 100 hospitals, universities, Indian tribes, patient advocacy groups and local food banks “to help people sign up for coverage in new online health insurance marketplaces.”
The effort is just the latest attempt by Republicans to undermine enrollment in the Affordable Care Act. Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee have previously sent letters seeking information to entities tasked with educating the public about the law, opened investigations into public relations companies that had been contracted to promote the law on popular television shows, and warned the National Football League (NFL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) against encouraging enrollment in the law.
An HHS spokesperson strongly condemned the committee’s request to Politico, noting, “This is a blatant and shameful attempt to intimidate groups who will be working to inform Americans about their new health insurance options and help them enroll in coverage, just like Medicare counselors have been doing for years.”