U.S. Official Seeks Private Funds to Aid Obamacare

By Pear, Robert | International Herald Tribune, May 14, 2013 | Go to article overview

U.S. Official Seeks Private Funds to Aid Obamacare


Pear, Robert, International Herald Tribune


Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, has solicited sizable donations as part of a multimillion-dollar campaign to ensure the success of the new health care law.

Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, has solicited sizable donations from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and H&R Block, the tax preparation service, as part of a multimillion-dollar campaign to ensure the success of President Barack Obama's health care law, administration officials say, even as a leading Senate Republican raised questions about the legality of her efforts.

The foundation is expected to contribute as much as $10 million, while H&R Block is expected to make a smaller donation of about $500,000, the officials said on Sunday.

The senior Republican on the Senate health committee, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, said the fund-raising "may be illegal."

He likened it to efforts by the Reagan administration to raise money for rebels fighting the leftist government of Nicaragua in the 1980s, after Congress had restricted the use of federal money. Aides to Mr. Alexander said Sunday that he would ask the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, to examine the propriety of the Obama administration's fund-raising efforts.

The Department of Health and Human Services said that Ms. Sebelius's actions to supplement money appropriated by Congress were proper and would continue, despite criticism from Republicans. After first denying that administration officials had engaged in fund- raising, the department confirmed Friday that Ms. Sebelius had made calls soliciting support from the health care industry, including insurance and pharmaceutical executives.

Jason Young, a spokesman for Ms. Sebelius, said she had suggested that health care executives and others support the work of Enroll America, a private nonprofit group that shares the president's goal of securing coverage for people without insurance. Several people who received solicitations said that current and former administration officials had suggested seven-figure donations.

An insurance executive said that some insurers had been asked for $1 million donations, and that "bigger companies have been asked for a lot more."

Administration officials said private donations were needed because Congress had provided much less money than Mr. Obama requested to publicize the law and get people enrolled in health plans subsidized by the government.

The Johnson Foundation describes itself as the largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to public health. …

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