Issa issues subpoena over HHS documents

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, after threatening for weeks to do so, issued a subpoena Monday for documents on a program he claims is being used to boost President Obama's election chances by hiding the negative effects of ObamaCare.

The subpoena went out Monday afternoon to the Department of Health and Human Services, according to an Issa aide.

The move comes after the department last week handed over reams of material just minutes before a Thursday deadline. However, Issa said the material did not satisfy his request.

The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for months has been seeking documents and correspondence behind an $8 billion program that pays bonuses to Medicare Advantage plans.

Issa claims the bonus program is being used to mask the first round of Medicare Advantage cuts in connection with the health care overhaul -- in order to win favor with seniors.

"It's an unbelievable abuse of power," he said Thursday. Issa said the program basically funds "what ObamaCare took away."

The program in question is called a "demonstration" project. But Issa complains the project is far more sweeping than a run-of-the-mill test program, and conveniently lasts until 2014. "This is larger than every test they've ever done at HHS combined," Issa said.

The department, though, defended the project last week.

"The quality bonus payment demo is providing incentives to more (Medicare Advantage) plans to improve care, giving more patients high-quality choices in the program," the department said in a written statement. "It is consistent with previous demos."

Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office recommended that the Obama administration kill the bonus payment program -- questioning the legal authority behind the system. A top official with the GAO also testified in July that he has "never encountered" a demonstration project of this size.