House committee expands probe of Sebelius after new fundraising revelations

A House committee is expanding its investigation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius after the Cabinet secretary acknowledged she reached out to three more health care companies to raise money to assist in implementing President Obama’s health care law.

Sebelius disclosed Tuesday during an appearance before the House Education and the Workforce Committee that she had also contacted Johnson & Johnson, Ascension Health, and Kaiser Permanente to seek donations on behalf of Enroll America, a nonprofit group working to implement Obama’s signature health care law. HHS previously acknowledged she also had contacted H&R Block and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“I have promoted and discussed outreach activities not only around the partnership with Enroll America but dozens of organizations for a very long time,” Sebelius told lawmakers.

Top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said the revelations by Sebelius raised new questions about whether the Obama administration improperly pressured the health care industry for money to support a law that covered their activities, and that they were expanding an ongoing probe of the HHS chief.

“The recent revelations made by Secretary Sebelius raise significant red flags about how she and others at HHS have been working on behalf of Enroll America,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy, R-Penn., in a joint statement.

“First, the administration denied that HHS was engaged in fundraising, then they fessed up to Sebelius’ fundraising pitch to H&R Block and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and now we learn of three more health care groups that were contacted,” the lawmakers said. “It is troubling that the HHS Secretary is making pitches on behalf of Enroll America to the very same industry groups the agency regulates.”

The committee has sent out letters requesting information from several health care companies to learn more about how the administration may have sought money.

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