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Judicial Watch and The Heritage Foundation joined forces last month to investigate Obamacare activity on the part of Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  The joint investigation was prompted by reports that the Secretary had “gone, hat in hand, to health industry officials, asking them to make large financial donations to help with the effort to implement President Obama’s landmark health-care law.”  In response, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander launched a congressional inquiry into whether the Secretary’s fundraising appeals, conducted by phone and in person, primarily made on behalf of Enroll America, violated the Antideficiency Act, codified at 31 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1342, and 1517.  Contrary to HHS’s claims that a shoestring budget to launch Obamacare has forced it to go begging for private monies, records published at www.usaspending.gov show the agency has distributed more than $5 million in grants and paid more than $15 million in contracts to implement the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) since its enactment on March 23, 2010.

Documents obtained today through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, show that, despite a government-wide pay freeze in place at the time, the administration cast aside normal hiring practices in order to expedite the implementation of Obamacare.  Highlights from the documents obtained so far show that:

The same day Obamacare was enacted, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director John Berry gave HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources (HR) Denise Wells “direct-hire appointing authority” to add 1,814 new HHS staffers, including 92 Grants Management Specialists and 50 Criminal Investigators;

On May 3, 2010, Ms. Wells granted all Operating and Staff Division Heads the authority to begin hiring in all occupational categories identified by OPM as necessary “to support the Administration’s Health Care Reform initiative”;

An undated attachment to Ms. Wells’ May 3 memo  notes that while use of www.usajobs.gov is “strongly encouraged,” hand-delivered hard-copy applications for certain “name request” applicants would be accepted on a case-by-case basis.

Public interest in the Secretary’s possible misconduct in this instance is heightened by the fact that it would not represent Ms. Sebelius’s first ethical challenge during her tenure as an Obama administration official, having been found guilty in September 2012 of violating the Hatch Act in support of the President’s reelection campaign.  The documents highlighted here stem from Judicial Watch’s May 16, 2013 requested of all HHS communications from January 1, 2010 through the present with Anne Filipic, former White House staffer turned president of Enroll America, a nonprofit organization “tasked with selling Obamacare.”

Judicial Watch continues pursuing additional documentary evidence surrounding Obamacare’s implementation as media coverage continues to unfold regarding the Secretary’s “dancing around serious ethical lines”:

May 16, 2013:    Request to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for Enroll America’s 2010, 2011, and 2012 tax transcripts as well as the organization’s tax-exempt status determination letter;

May 17, 2013:  Request to HHS for all records reflecting the scope and extent of the Secretary’s healthcare fundraising activities, including emails to or from the White House, Congress, any member of the media, or other third party, particularly on behalf of Enroll America;

May 20, 2013:    Request to HHS for records reflecting the Secretary’s solicitation of time, money, and expertise from “eighteen categories of individuals and organizations,” per HHS spokesman Jason Young[1];

May 23, 2013: Request to HHS for records reflecting the agency’s communications from, to, or about the nation’s major health insurers, druggists, and a medical records software company, plus an additional advocacy group: Families USA;

May 24, 2013: Request to IRS for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s 2010, 2011, and 2012 tax transcripts as well as the organization’s tax-exempt status determination letter;

June 25, 2013: Request to HHS for all communications about Obamacare from May 1, 2013 through the present with any media outlet;

June 25, 2013: Request to HHS for all records respecting how to use the National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Assocation (NBA) to promote Obamacare.

The Obama administration responded to the foregoing requests in a variety of ways, none of them involving disclosure:

May 20, 2013: Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), the division of HHS primarily responsible for implementing Obamacare, classified Judicial Watch as a Commercial Use Requester, denying our organization’s request for a fee waiver in obtaining public records and disseminating them in the public interest.

May 22, 2013: HRSA granted Judicial Watch’s fee waiver appeal of the same day, claiming that the misclassification of our organization as a profit-driven enterprise was an “inadvertent error.”

June 18, 2013: HHS conceded locating 388 pages of records regarding the agency’s efforts on behalf of Enroll America.  HHS also admitted withholding the entire production, claiming that release of these records would have “a detrimental effect on [HHS’s] decisionmaking process.”

June 18, 2013: HHS conceded locating an additional 267 pages of records, these focused on the Secretary’s solicitation of time, money, and expertise from 18 categories of individuals and organizations.  The agency withheld all these records, too, claiming they were created in preparation for a lawsuit.

June 25, 2013: Providing no records responsive to Judicial Watch’s request, IRS claimed that Enroll America’s 2012 tax transcript had been moved to an office of the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Judicial Watch redirected its request for Enroll America’s transcripts to the indicated location.

June 25, 2013: HHS claimed never to have received Judicial Watch’s request for records of the agency’s communications with the nation’s major health insurers.  Judicial Watch put this false claim to rest by supplying HHS with delivery confirmation obtained from the U.S. Postal Service.

As of June 26, 2013, Judicial Watch has appealed two of the five pending FOIA requests and has warned HHS that, pursuant to recent precedent of the D.C. Circuit, litigation respecting a third unfulfilled request is imminent.  The IRS has fulfilled none of the requests made to it, making that agency subject to suit on all counts.  Judicial Watch and Heritage will continue fighting for disclosure of all government activity in relation to the administration’s rollout of Obamacare.

Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded tens of thousands of dollars in pay bonuses to top earners in the division that blames unavoidable cuts to cancer treatments on federal budget sequestration, according to alarming new documents obtained by Judicial Watch.

The Obama administration claims that the inhumane slash in cancer treatments for certain Medicare patients is out of its control because it’s a consequence of federal budget sequestration and it doesn’t have the power to stop it. In fact, in a letter obtained by a news agency earlier this month, HHS told Congress it doesn’t have the authority to exempt Medicare payment for the cancer treatments that have been hit as a result of sequestration reductions.

Concerned lawmakers had asked the agency to use budgetary authority to exempt the crucial medical treatments from sequestration reductions, considering the harsh effect it’s having on cancer patients. Since the March sequestration, a number of cancer clinics started turning away Medicare patients because the hard-hitting reimbursement reduction made the cost of administering chemotherapy drugs prohibitive.

It turns out that the HHS division responsible for the cancer treatment cuts pays its top officials outlandish bonuses, according to documents obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). JW has been investigating this for more than a year, long before the sequestration fiasco. In fact, back in April 2012 JW requested the pay records of the agency’s top earners.

Thirteen months later the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the HHS division at the epicenter of the cancer scandal, finally provided the records. In all there are 11 pages (view them here and here) and they show the following:  The Deputy Chief Operating Officer, whose base pay is $179,700, was awarded a 25% bonus on October 1, 2011 worth $44,925; another $10,333 bonus on Dec. 31, 2011 and an additional $8,985 on Dec. 12, 2012, bringing her total compensation to $423,643 for the two fiscal years.

Meanwhile, the Director of the Office of Financial Management, whose base pay was also $179,700, was awarded a 15% bonus on October 1, 2011 worth $26,955. This brought her total compensation for the year to $206,655. Total bonuses reflected in the documents amounted to $101,531. Total pay reflected in the documents for the employees was $820,331.

This may seem unbelievable to the national cancer organizations that issued a joint statement blasting the Obama administration’s “crippling effects of sequestration cuts to cancer drugs and services.” The groups warned that, unless CMS exercises its authority to modify the cuts, patient access to cancer care will be jeopardized. It cites a survey that shows 72% of cancer clinics have been forced to deny new Medicare patients under the new sequestration reimbursement policy.

Records uncovered from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) show that the division blaming cancer treatment curtailment on sequester paid more than $100,000 in bonuses to four of its top earners during the last two fiscal years.  Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Judicial Watch, Inc., filed on April 27, 2012 a request for the top earners’ pay records.  Thirteen months later, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released eleven pages which showed the following.

1) The Deputy Chief Operating Officer, whose base pay is $179,700, was awarded:

  •  a 25% bonus on October 1, 2011 worth $44,925;
  • another $10,333 bonus on Dec. 31, 2011; and,
  • an additional $8,985 on Dec. 12, 2012

bringing her total compensation to $423,643 for the two fiscal years.

2) Meanwhile, the Director of the Office of Financial Management, whose base pay was also $179,700, was awarded:

  •  a 15% bonus on October 1, 2011 worth $26,955;

bringing her total compensation for the year to $206,655.

Total bonuses reflected in the documents amounted to $101,531.  Total pay reflected in the documents for the four employees was $820,331.

CMS under fire for blaming cut of cancer treatments on sequester:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/05/cancer-clinics-sequestration_n_3393846.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

 Documents reveal partisan attacks, questionable claims about teacher layoffs and HHS Secretary Sebelius admission that sequestration would not affect agency operations

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it received documents on March 19, 2013, from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealing that Deputy Secretary of State William Corr had sent highly politicized letters to the governors of all 50 states attacking Congress and providing misleading information about the effects of the budget sequestration mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.  The documents also contained memos from Secretary of HHS Katherine Sebelius indicating that sequestration would have little effect upon department operations.

The documents came in response to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request  made to HHS on February 26, 2013. The FOIA request asked for: “Any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to the projected effects of the potential budget sequestration mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.”

Documents provided by HHS to Judicial Watch included letters sent in early March from Corr to the governors of each of the 50 states politicizing the sequestration:

“As you are likely aware, due to the failures of Congress [emphasis added] to reach a deal on balanced deficit reduction to avoid sequestration, a series of spending cuts call sequestration will cancel approximately $85 billion in budgetary resources across the federal government for the remainder of the federal fiscal year.”

Each of the fifty Corr letters detail alleged specific cuts for each state, including the previously debunked claim that sequestration would lead to “school systems forced to lay off teachers, teacher assistants, and other staff.” Other threatened cuts include: Head Start and Early Head Start, Social Services, Senior Nutrition Programs, Maternal and Child Healthcare, and Substance Abuse Treatment/Prevention.

In a Washington Post article on February 27, 2013, entitled “4 Pinocchio’s for Arne Duncan’s false claim of ‘pink slips’ for teachers,” the Post found that earlier claims by Secretary of the Department of Education (DOE) Duncan of teacher layoffs “appears to be hyperbole”

“[T]he Education Department for days was unable to cough up the name of a single school district where these notices had been delivered … [T]here is no reason to hype the statistics — or to make scary pronouncements on pink slips being issued based on misinformation. Indeed, Duncan’s lack of seriousness about being scrupulously factual undercuts the administration’s claim that the cuts are a serious problem.”

Notwithstanding the failure of the DOE to produce “the name of a single school district “ where sequestration had resulted in layoffs, Corr, in his official letter to the governors of all 50 states, informed the governors that they would be forced to lay off their state’s school teachers.

Other documents show HHS had informed its own employees that the sequestration would not affect the ability of HHS to carry out its wide-ranging programs. In a memo dated December 20, 2012, Secretary of HHS Katherine Sebelius informed HHS employees:

“I do not expect our day-to-day would change dramatically on or immediately after January 2, should sequestration occur. This means we will not be executing any immediate personnel actions, such as furloughs, on that date.”

In a HHS memo dated March 1, 2013, Sebelius again minimized the impact of the sequestration, reassuring HHS employees:

“It is vitally important to keep in mind the distinction between the reduction in spending authority triggered by the sequestration and the complete absence of funding associated with a government shutdown. Unlike a shutdown, sequestration does not trigger an automatic break in service. Please plan to continue your scheduled work, even if sequestration goes into effect as anticipated.”

“The documents obtained by Judicial Watch reveal a well-orchestrated attempt by the Obama administration to mislead the American people and the nation’s governors,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These propaganda letters are a misuse of taxpayer resources and show that HHS, the agency charged with running Obamacare, is out of control.”

While the U.S. government is preoccupied monitoring and controlling what American children eat, it’s failing miserably to protect those in foster care from the devastating effects of potent, psychiatric medications that alter the mind.

Hundreds of thousands of foster children across the nation are being prescribed powerful psychiatric medications at doses that exceed the maximum levels approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), yet the feds are doing little to shield them. Within that number there is a subgroup that’s taking five or more psychiatric drugs simultaneously despite potential safety issues. In some cases the drugs aren’t even approved for this type of use the FDA, the federal agency charged with protecting public health by assuring the safety of medications and food.

The alarming details of the government’s failure to protect its most vulnerable citizens are featured in a federal report issued this week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress. It outlines the results of a two-year probe featuring five states—Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon and Texas. Of the approximately 100,000 foster kids studied, investigators found that nearly one-third were prescribed at least one psychiatric drug. Investigators also determined that foster children are almost five times more likely to take psychotropic drugs than kids who aren’t in the system.

Foster children less than a year old were nearly twice as likely to be on psychiatric drugs compared to non-foster kids, investigators found. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is being blamed for the crisis since it oversees Medicaid, which provides prescription drug coverage for foster children and has the power to withhold federal money from states that fail to comply with stricter rules.

While little kids are getting doped up by the government on potent psych drugs, HHS simply offers “informational resources for states to consider” for children in their custody with no follow-up or oversight. “HHS-endorsed guidance could help close gaps in oversight of psychotropic prescriptions and increase protections for these vulnerable children,” congressional investigators say in their report.

Ironically, the Obama Administration has put the bloated federal government stamp on other issues that don’t require it. For instance, under Michelle Obama’s multi-billion dollar law (The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act) various federal agencies—including HHS—have joined forces to control what children eat as well as their exercise habits. Passed by Congress last year, the measure especially targets poor and “at-risk” kids.   

As part of that effort, the government actually wasted $2 million this year on a device that tracks what minority public children eat for lunch. The goal of that brilliant project is to calculate how many lunchtime calories poor and minority kids consume at five Texas elementary schools. High-tech cameras were installed in the cafeteria of one San Antonio campus to photograph the foods students put on their trays. The digital imaging later determines how many calories were consumed.

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents from the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) detailing the agency’s massive taxpayer-funded multimedia campaign designed to promote the Affordable Health Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and other HHS policy initiatives. According to the records obtained by Judicial Watch pursuant to a March 23, 2011, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (No. 11-608)), the total cost of the campaign, which targets Obama’s electoral coalition, could reach as much as $200 million.

Among the highlights from the documents:

  • An April 27, 2010 Department of Health and Human Services Acquisition Plan entitled “National Multimedia & Education Campaign & Grassroots Outreach,” details a comprehensive five-year communications program covering a variety of HHS policy initiatives, including “health care reform.”
  • According to a section of the Acquisition Plan entitled, “Independent Government Cost Estimate,” the Health and Human Services ASPA (Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs) states: “ASPA is unable to provide a definitive government cost estimate. Campaigns vary is [sic] size and scope. Some campaigns involve radio, some TV, and some print. Other campaigns may involve all of those avenues plus on ground events, website, bus tours, etc.” However, ASPA “is letting this contract in order produce three to four campaigns per year through the life-cycle of the contract. We are requesting a contract with a $200,000,000 maximum.”
  • According to a subsequent March 14, 2011, contract included among the documents, HHS hired The Ogilvy Group “to provide services to design, develop, and execute a multiplatform educational media campaign to promote the new website Healthcare.gov, including the new Spanish language version of the website.” The total amount of the contract award: $3,998,928.
  • The Ogilvy contract “task order” describes the purpose of the Healthcare.gov website: “To accompany such a monumental piece of legislation (The Affordable Health Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare), the law charged the Department of Health and Human Services with the creation of a website to aide Americans about the health insurance coverage options available to them.” (U.S. Senator Charles Grassley has deemed the HHS online program “state-sponsored propaganda.”)
  • The Ogilvy contract also describes the “audiences” that will receive “targeted messaging” during the campaign: “Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Young People, Women/Mothers,” all considered key target demographics for the Obama reelection campaign.
  • According to the Ogilvy contract, HHS sought to receive “media training” in the following areas, among others: “controlling your message,” “handling hostile interviews,” “artful repetition,” “identifying loaded questions” and “being persuasive.”

HHS describes in detail the key to success of the propaganda campaign in the “Statement of Work” accompanying the Acquisition Plan: “Health and program-related messages are processed by the target audience according to a particular reality, which he or she experiences. Attitudes, feelings, values, needs, desires, behaviors and beliefs all play a part in the individual’s decision to accept information and make a behavioral change. It is by understanding the importance of these characteristics that health and program-related messages can be targeted to the beneficiary in effective ways.”

“There is nothing educational about this Obamacare propaganda campaign to force ‘behavioral changes’ on Americans. These records prove the administration is using taxpayer dollars to manipulate public opinion. It also appears the Obama administration is trying to get a leg-up in the reelection campaign by targeting key Obama constituencies with positive and misleading messages about the president’s ‘signature’ policy initiative,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This Big Brother campaign is most certainly underhanded, potentially unlawful, and it must be stopped. If Congress is looking for a place to trim the deficit, this is a good place to start.”

In November 2010, Judicial Watch obtained documents from the Obama HHS regarding a series of three Medicare television advertisements featuring actor Andy Griffith. The Obama Administration spent $3,184,000 in taxpayer funds to produce and air the advertisements on national television in September and October 2010 to educate “Medicare beneficiaries, caregivers, and family members about forthcoming changes to Medicare as a result of the Affordable Care Act.” However, according to FactCheck.org, a project of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, the advertisements intentionally misinformed the American people.

Lawsuit Marks One Year Anniversary of Obamacare Bill Signing; Previous Documents Uncovered by Judicial Watch Indicate HHS Spent Millions on “Misleading” Obamacare Advertisements Featuring Actor Andy Griffith

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Washington, DC — March 24, 2011Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to obtain records related to the creation and funding of advertisements pushing the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Case No. 11-608)). Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on March 23, 2011, which marked the one year anniversary of President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law.On December 15, 2010, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with HHS seeking the following information: “All records concerning the creation and/or funding of advertisements on the Affordable Care Act.” On December 17, 2010, Judicial Watch received confirmation from HHS that its request was received. Judicial Watch received additional confirmation from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a component of HHS, on January 14, 2011. By law, a response to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request was due no later than February 14, 2011. However, to date, no documents have been produced. Moreover, HHS has failed to indicate when a response is forthcoming.In November 2010, Judicial Watch separately obtained documents from the Obama Department of Health and Human Services regarding a series of three Medicare television advertisements featuring actor Andy Griffith. The Obama Administration spent $3,184,000 in taxpayer funds to produce and air the advertisements on national television in September and October 2010 to educate “Medicare beneficiaries, caregivers, and family members about forthcoming changes to Medicare as a result of the Affordable Care Act.”However, according to FactCheck.org, a project of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, the advertisements intentionally misinform the American people:

Would the sheriff of Mayberry mislead you about Medicare? Alas, yes. In a new TV spot from the Obama administration, actor Andy Griffith, famous for his 1960s portrayal of the top law enforcement official in the fictional town of Mayberry, N.C., touts benefits of the new health care law. Griffith tells his fellow senior citizens, “like always, we’ll have our guaranteed [Medicare] benefits.” But the truth is that the new [Obamacare] law is guaranteed to result in benefit cuts for one class of Medicare beneficiaries — those in private Medicare Advantage plans.

“The first year of Obamacare has been marked by lies, secrecy, and contempt for the rule of law. In light of the millions of dollars we know the Obama administration spent on misleading Andy Griffith advertisements, American taxpayers deserve to know just how much of their money has been used to fund Obamacare propaganda,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Today the courts have put Obamacare in legal limbo and the last thing the Obama administration should be doing is using taxpayer dollars to run an Obamacare misinformation campaign.”

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