Published March 23, 2011
On the first anniversary of President Obama's health care reform act being signed into law, the Washington based GOP super think tank known as Crossroads GPS plans to file a federal lawsuit Wednesday in D.C. District Court against the Department of Health and Human Services.
Fox News has learned the group is seeking documents to better understand how HHS makes decisions to grant waivers to the new health care law.
At issue is the Obama administration's criteria for granting 1,040 of the temporary health care reform waivers to businesses, labor groups and a handful of states. Those organizations are being allowed to opt out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- at least until 2014 -- in order to let them develop systems and alternatives to meet the health care reform law's strict coverage requirements.
HHS data suggest more than 2.6 million people, or 2 percent of people with private insurance, will not be required to enter the new federal system.
Crossroads GPS submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to HHS on Jan. 7, 2011.
HHS acknowledged receipt that day but despite repeated attempts to get a reply, Crossroads says there has been no action taken even though there is a 20-day statutory limit for federal agencies to respond. The group wants to find out who makes the waiver decisions, and with what input and guidance.
Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and others have complained about the lack of transparency in the waiver process.
"The Obamacare waiver program has all the same flaws as the underlying law: unfettered government power, federal bureaucrats picking winners and losers and the appearance, if not the reality, of favoritism to political cronies," said Crossroads President Steve Law. "Until President Obama is willing to grant the entire country a waiver from Obamacare, his administration needs to come clean on how they decide who wins and losers in the waiver lottery."
President Obama, who famously promised as a presidential candidate to have the most transparent and open government in American history, was scheduled to receive an award for government transparency from a coalition of good-government groups last week. But at the last minute, the presentation was postponed to a future date.
A recent study by The Associated Press says the Obama administration has refused to release any materials in more than one out of three FOIA requests and when it did respond, the average wait times got longer not shorter. Only one out of five "urgent" FOIA requests, according to the AP, received replies in a timely fashion. That too is lower than the previous year.
There were 544,360 FOIA requests last year, up nearly 41,000 from the previous year but the government actually responded to nearly 12,400 fewer requests than the year before.