A House committee says a high-ranking Obama official misled lawmakers over the amount of Obamacare grants returned to taxpayers.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee issued a new report Tuesday that charged Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, with misleading lawmakers during a December hearing over a question on grants extended to state-run Obamacare exchanges. The administration stands by the testimony and says that the figure it originally reported was accurate.
The crux of the dispute is Slavitt's testimony in December during a hearing on funding given to state exchanges. The report argues that Slavitt misrepresented his remarks that $200 million had been recouped from misspent funds from the 17 state-based exchanges.
"Our first priority is to be good stewards of the federal taxpayer dollars," according to his testimony. "This means returning unspent dollars to the Treasury and closing grants, collecting improperly spent dollars and preventing more from going out the door. Over $200 million of the original grant awards have already been returned to the federal government."
What that $200 million figure refers to is in dispute. CMS told the committee after the hearing that it got back $285 million in grants out of $5.5 billion given to all the states for the planning and establishment of a state-based exchange.
The House committee believed that the $200 million figure was just from the 17 states that set up their own exchanges. They also thought that the money was from unspent or improperly spent funds, since Slavitt referred to efforts to get back misspent funds right before announcing the $200 million figure.
"Because Mr. Slavitt made his remarks in the context of recouping misspent funds from the 17 [state-based exchanges], it was widely assumed — and reported in the media — that the $200 million figure represented funds recouped because CMS found [state-based exchanges] spent them improperly," the report said.
The committee charged that only $21.5 million was acquired from those 17 exchanges.
"Additionally, that $21.5 million was not actually 'recouped.' Rather the funds were de-obligated because the grant had expired or the funds were no longer needed," the committee said.
The GOP-led committee charges Slavitt with providing testimony based on "estimates and conjecture, not facts."
But the administration stands by the testimony and its accuracy.
"Mr. Slavitt clearly stated in his testimony that the over $200 million returned was unspent dollars or improperly spent dollars from the grant program," CMS spokesman Aaron Albright told the Washington Examiner. "CMS has always been clear with the committee, providing a detailed accounting of the grant funds on request, as well as multiple briefings and calls for the chairman and his staff."