The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Oct. 22 sent a subpoena
to the Department of Health and Human Services for documents related to the
creation of a Medicare managed care demonstration project, a committee spokesman
Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.) last week threatened HHS with a
subpoena for failing to turn over relevant documents related to the Medicare
Advantage Quality Bonus Payment Demonstration.
In an Oct. 17 letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, GOP committee
leaders said the department had failed to provide information requested numerous
times about the program and that the committee would begin the “compulsory”
process to obtain them if not provided by Oct. 18.
The committee said HHS late Oct. 18 provided 1,300 pages of information, but
they did not contain enough detail about the demo.
HHS declined to comment on the issue Oct. 22.
Committee Republicans have charged HHS with using the demo to defray Medicare
Advantage reimbursement cuts in the Affordable Care Act to help President
Obama's standing with seniors before the November election. The department has
denied the charge, saying the demo will allow HHS to test new ideas for saving
Medicare money and is improving the quality of MA plans.
Republicans also have pointed to a recent Government Accountability Office
report that found the demo was unlikely to produce meaningful results and
questioned HHS's authority to establish the demo, which will cost $8.3 billion
over 10 years (see previous article).
Committee Democrats have said HHS could have done a better job of explaining
the demo, but said the investigation is overtly political.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rates MA plan sponsors for
quality on a one-to-five star scale, with five stars representing the highest
quality. The demonstration offers plans bonuses if they have a rating of at
least three stars.
In contrast, under ACA, MA benchmarks would have been increased so that plans
would be required to have four or five stars to receive bonuses.
By Steve Teske