CNSNews.com FOIAs Sebelius: Hand Over Records on Obamacare Enrollment Numbers

October 24, 2013 - 3:21 AM

Sebelius

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - CNSNews.com filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday asking that the office of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius swiftly hand over “all records” that have been generated by, or sent to, her office discussing the number of people who have completed the enrollment process in Obamacare by using the government’s healthcare.gov website.

On Oct. 1, Sebelius’s HHS opened this website to allow people to enroll in health-insurance plans as required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  The website functions as a main sales portal for the insurance plans people must buy if they want to receive the federal subsidy under Obamacare.

The federal Obamacare subsidies are available to all households that earn under 400 percent of the federal poverty level—but only if they buy their insurance policy on the government-run exchanges made accessible through healthcare,gov.

Many news reports over the past three weeks have discusssed the functional problems with healthcare.gov that have made it difficult, if not impossible, for people to using the website to actually enroll in an Obamacare-sanctioned insurance plan.

“There can be no doubt that the failure of HHS’s website to enroll applicants has been perceived by the public to be a major failure and has been widely condemned by the public, the media, and even by members of the Administration,” said the FOIA request filed on behalf of CNSNews.com by Washington, D.C., attorney Paul Kamenar.

“In order to properly assess the validity of these criticisms, it is urgent that the information requested be promptly released to the public and Congress to assess the need for remedial measures,” said the request.

On Thursday, Oct. 24, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing to take testimony from executives representing some of the government contractors who developed healthcare.gov.

Next Wednesday, Secretary Sebelius herself is scheduled to appear before the committee to discuss the problems with the website.

Thus far, however, the administration has not released the basic data detailing how many people have succeeded in enrolling in what types of plans, at what cost, on the Obamacare health-insurance exchanges accessible thought the government-run website.

The CNSNews.com FOIA request asks HHS to release: “All records, including emails, correspondence, reports, summaries, and other documents, including electronic records that provide information describing the daily aggregate number of persons and other related information, such as the age groups of applicants and what states they are from, who have completed the enrollment process for health care coverage via the healthcare.gov website and whose applications have been sent to insurance companies on a daily basis, regardless of whether those applicant/enrollees have paid their first premiums or who may have enrolled but then cancelled their plan.  This is not a request for the individual applications themselves, but simply reports and the like that summarize the enrollment data.”

The FOIA request further asks HHS to respond within 10 days, citing a provision of the FOIA law that authorizes such accelerated action “with respect to a request made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information, urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Federal Government activity.”

The law otherwise gives the government 20 days to respond to a FOIA request.