American Oversight Demands Release of Secret Health Care Negotiations

Ethics Watchdog Files FOIA Requests to Learn What Trump Administration Has Been Telling Congress and Interest Groups about Health Care Bill

Washington, DC – As last minute health care negotiations continue behind closed doors, American Oversight is demanding that the Trump administration release its communications with Congress and outside interest groups regarding the health care reform bill.

“The only transparency we have in this health care debate is that we know the administration is cutting secret deals behind the scenes,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight. “We’re going to hold the administration to the same standard that then-Congressmen Mike Pence and Tom Price set when they condemned ‘sleazy backroom dealing’ in ‘smoke-filled rooms’ during the last health care debate.”

In 2010, as the Affordable Care Act was moving towards passage, Pence and Price publicly called for negotiations to take place in public.

American Oversight has filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking records of all communications between senior officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Health and Human Services and members of Congress, state governments, and outside organizations.

American Oversight’s FOIA request applies to records dating from the first day of the Trump administration through the present, and would cover any emails or memos sent as part of the negotiations taking place today. The request includes:

  • All communications relating to health care reform, including meeting notices, agendas, drafts, and talking points, exchanged between the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and:
    • Members of Congress and congressional staff;
    • Non-governmental entities (such as insurers, advocacy groups, trade associations, or political parties);
    • State governments or state government agencies.
  • Calendars entries for senior political appointees in OMB and HHS relating to health care reform.
  • All documents reflecting any analysis performed by OMB or HHS of the estimated costs or budgetary impact of the AHCA or other health care reform legislation, as well as any communications with the Congressional Budget Office regarding the AHCA.

The public has a legal right to these records. While some internal communications within federal agencies can be exempted from release under FOIA, communications between federal officials and members of Congress or outside groups are generally not protected – and American Oversight expects that these records will be released.

“If Congress and the administration think they can say one thing in public and another in private they are sadly mistaken. The truth will come out,” Evers added.

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