A Republican lawmaker has given the Obama administration 30 days to create and share a plan for how it will recapture $750 million in tax credits wrongfully awarded to illegal immigrants.
In a letter that Tenn. Rep. Diane Black shared exclusively with the Washington Examiner on Thursday, the congresswoman asks Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell how the government agency intends to fix the situation, both by getting back the lost funds and preventing it from happening next year.
"I would like to know what is being done to rectify this situation and how you would intend to recapture the money that has been issued in error. I would also like to know how the 'pay and chase' protocol, a system that is well-known to be broken, has become an Administration-supported part of 'statutory guidelines,'" Black, a 40-year veteran of the healthcare industry, wrote in the letter sent Thursday.
On Feb. 8, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released a report that stated approximately 470,000 individuals who were awarded tax credits in place of insurance premiums did not provide proof of citizenship, legal status or lawful presence — all conditions for receiving a refund from the Internal Revenue Service.
Burwell and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew did not deny the report's findings when questioned by Black and the House Ways and Means Committee last week. Burwell defended the agency's expenditure of taxpayer funds, saying she followed "statutory guidelines" to process refunds within 90 days.
But the guidelines contradict a promise President Obama made in 2009 before a joint session of Congress. In a proposal to lawmakers on Sept. 9, Obama said his proposed Obamacare health insurance coverage and tax credits would "not apply to those who are here illegally."
Since Obamacare was enacted, Black has called for a bill that would create a more conservative disbursement process. In 2013, Black first introduced the No Subsidies Without Verification Act, legislation that would require the federal government to receive an applicant's income and citizenship statuses prior to subsidies being released to an individual.
According to a spokesman for Black, her bill would be a sensible step for HHS and the Treasury to take in place of the administration's current lack of a plan.
"Congresswoman Black was proud to start this effort and to continue leading the charge for commonsense verification of eligibility for Obamacare subsidies before these payments go out the door," Black's Communications Director Jonathan Frank said. "She will continue to shine a light on this glaring vulnerability of the healthcare law until it is addressed."
Burwell will have one month to respond to Black's request, one the lawmaker wrote has no reason not to be addressed.
"As Obama looks to seal a political legacy in the remaining months of his term, finally honoring one of the core promises of his signature law would be a good place to start," Black wrote in an op-ed Thursday.