Today, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) issued a subpoena to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide all data the agency has on enrollment in the Exchanges. The subpoena, which is the second Camp has issued as Chairman, comes after CMS refused to provide enrollment data for the ObamaCare Exchanges. The data was first requested by Camp during a hearing with CMS Administrator Tavenner and again in a letter Friday, November 1. In a letter to CMS accompanying the subpoena, Chairman Camp stated, "Millions of Americans are receiving cancellation notices for their insurance policies, and yet the Administration has failed to create and implement viable Exchanges where Americans can enroll in affordable coverage."
The Obama administration's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which has overseen creation of the federal health care marketplace, said earlier this week that it will soon release the preliminary enrollment numbers -- and they're going to be very low. It's a message the White House has reiterated with reporters in recent days.
House Republicans have responded to the pending release of the data by ... subpoenaing the data the administration has already pledged to release to the public.
This is all manner of silly. Why subpoena information that the White House has already vowed to publish? Because too often, House Republicans see administrative oversight as a game to be played for partisan advantage. The folks who believe "messaging" is more important than governing are the same folks who see federal subpoenas as some kind of toy.
For that matter, the administration didn't "refuse to provide enrollment data"; the administration didn't have the data to share. It's putting the (likely to be horrible) figures together now, and soon we'll all get a closer look.
As for the "cancellation notices," this is a nice Republican talking point, but (a) Americans received plenty of cancellation notices under the old system, too often when they got sick; (b) if Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act, I can think of many millions of Americans who'd receive cancellation notices for no reason other than partisan spite; and (c) those receiving cancellation notices now are poised to get an insurance upgrade.
Committee Chairman Dave Camp's press release added, "Furthermore, the failure to sign up enough people, especially young Americans, will lead to an even greater increase in premiums – pushing health care out of reach for millions of Americans and shifting even higher costs onto those who already have health insurance through their job."
This has the benefit of being largely accurate -- signing up large numbers of Americans, "especially young Americans," is important to the success of the law. And since Camp is now expressing his concerns about this -- which of course are entirely sincere, and not the least bit cynical or politically motivated -- can I assume the lawmaker and his allies will stop trying to sabotage the law and start encouraging more Americans to get health care coverage?
That's not a rhetorical question.
I'd add, by the way, that the Ways and Means Committee used to be a powerful and respected entity that did real work. Some committees are known for partisan warfare and political antics, but Ways and Means has traditionally been above this sort of thing, preferring to focus more on governing.
And then House Republicans took over. This year, Ways and Means hasn't even held a bill markup since April, and as committee Democrats noted today, that was "a bill to prepare for a default by prioritizing payments of the Treasury Department."
I'm all for administrative oversight, no matter who's in the White House, but Camp & Co. are showing how not to do it responsibly.
Update: When the poor early enrollment numbers are released, can we at least try to remember the similar numbers in Massachusetts in 2007?