HHS to Issa: We Won't Comply With Your Subpeona Because We Don't Trust You

Posted: Dec 13, 2013 4:32 PM
HHS to Issa: We Won't Comply With Your Subpeona Because We Don't Trust You

The latest middle finger from an increasingly lawless and desperate administration. I'm not a lawyer, but I'm fairly confident that "we don't think much of you" is an acceptable reason to ignore a Congressional subpoena:

The Health and Human Services Department told House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa that it won’t turn over documents related to the security of the Healthcare.gov website because it can’t trust him to keep secret information that could give hackers a roadmap to wreak havoc on the system. Issa has issued a subpoena to MITRE, a government contractor, to turn over unredacted copies of security-testing documents by noon Friday. At issue are website development plans MITRE drafted for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is under HHS. Already, Issa has been given access to the documents he seeks “in camera” — meaning committee staff were able to review them in a room but not keep them — but he is seeking physical copies...Administration officials worry that Issa intends to put them in the public domain, which Esquea argues could compromise the security of the site...While agency letters to Capitol Hill tend to be very deferential, Esquea’s did little to veil the administration’s feelings about Issa’s trustworthiness.

The website is secure, they insist, but they won't corroborate that claim with evidence because Darrell Issa might leak the truth to the public -- a public, incidentally, that is being urged by the government to enter their sensitive personal data into online state and federal systems that have been breached more than once. They warn that potential Issa leaks would jeopardize Healthcare.gov's security, which is currently in strong shape. Just trust them -- and ignore admonitions from IT security experts. What these Obamacare officials fail to understand is that for many Americans, it's their trustworthiness that's in question, not Issa's. Meanwhile, Yuval Levin agrees with my conclusion that the administration's flurry of eleventh-hour delays, changes, and "suggestions" to insurance companies are strong indicators that the White House is petrified of what's coming next month:

To “strongly encourage” insurers to take these kinds of steps (to use the Orwellian phrase of the HHS announcement), and to do it just a couple of weeks before the new system is supposed to start, suggests that the administration’s health experts mapped out how January is shaping up and had a collective heart attack. They seem especially worried about people forced out of old coverage and into new encountering horrible surprises and about the extremely low payment rate so far among people who have chosen new insurance plans on the exchanges. About two weeks before the deadline (after which, if they have not paid their first premium, people’s coverage will be voided) it looks like only about a fifth of the people who have signed up for exchange coverage have paid their first premium. If far more don’t do so soon, the (already very low) enrollment numbers the administration is looking at will fall far, far lower...The steps announced yesterday aren’t directed at that forthcoming problem, but, as usual, at far more immediate concerns. My guess, and it is just that, is that the administration has taken these steps because their internal projections at this point suggest some kind of disastrous replay of the politics of October and November in January, and this time they are intent on getting people to blame the insurers instead of the administration. I think that’s very unlikely to work, but it’s not hard to see why they would be desperate to try.

Yes, good luck with that. The Washington Post runs through the slap-dash nature of these new delays and highlights a backlog problem that is gumming up the works:

Health officials have not decided, however, exactly how people would be able to request such extra time, whether they need to ask before the Dec. 23 deadline, and the precise circumstances under which HHS would grant an extension...

Those seem like rather important details, no? We're ten days away from that deadline. Back to the Post:

[A CMS official] and the other individual familiar with the system said that some of the 50,000 to 60,000 applications have not been completed because consumers did not provide all the required information, and workers from the outside company, Serco, have been unable to reach them by phone to fill in the blanks. In other instances, paper applications were placed on hold until last week because parts of the online system needed to answer eligibility questions were not working well enough...Besides the applications in the backlog, about 100,000 paper applications have been processed, but those consumers were not told of the results until recently. The applications are supposed to be mailed notification letters, but none were mailed out until recently and the vast majority still have not. As a result, officials said, Serco workers last week tried calling the roughly 100,000 people to inform them of the eligibility decision and urge them to go online to sign up. It is not clear how many they were able to reach.

So thousands of people who submitted paper applications aren't enrolled in coverage because their forms were somehow flawed or incomplete. Some unknown percentage of this group aren't aware of this fact. As for those who correctly filled out their applications, the "vast majority" of them still haven't received a letter from Obamacare notifying them of their subsidy eligibility status. That's because the "vast majority" of those letters still haven't been mailed. I repeat: The deadline is in ten days. As for HHS' assertion that "many insurers do retroactive coverage in the current market," health insurance expert Bob Laszewski responds, "I don't know that the hell they're talking about." Laszewski also says he thinks fewer Americans will have insurance on January 1 than did prior to the law's enactment. Think about that. Feeling better yet, America? I'll leave you with three quick hits: (1) An essay on why Obamacare will, in fact, exacerbate America's doctor shortage, (2) a new Reason-Rupe poll showing that by a 21-point margin, Americans would prefer to return to the country's pre-Obamacare health system, and (3) my appearance on Fox News this afternoon. Topic? President Obama's big prize:

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