Apr 11, 2017

The watchdogs keeping an eye on HHS and Obamacare

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

As long as Obamacare repeal is stalled, the Department of Health and Human Services has said it will uphold the law — but a new watchdog group is trying to find out what officials at HHS and other agencies are saying about it in private. American Oversight, a group of lawyers that launched last month, says it's going to use the Freedom of Information Act to dig up a lot of emails and other documents about how the Trump administration is making its decisions about Obamacare.

It's mostly trying to promote transparency, executive director Austin Evers told me yesterday, and it's ready to file lawsuits to get faster FOIA responses. But it will also be looking for evidence of "sabotage," he said, and it's ready to call in outside lawyers to take the administration to court if that happens.

The topics they're focusing on:

  • The decision to cut back Obamacare advertising in the last week of enrollment
  • Whether HHS will advertise in the next enrollment season
  • What it will do about the law's "essential health benefits"
  • What it will do about the cost-sharing subsidies
  • Any changes it might make to the Obamacare marketplaces
  • What insurers have told the Trump administration about whether they'll participate next year

Why it matters: It's going to take a while, but if the group does unearth anything interesting, it will be widely shared with members of Congress, journalists and advocacy groups — so it could become a headache for the Trump administration. Evers is pretty sure his group will find something. His theory is that while Trumpcare was being written, "the administration and Congress could not have been engaging in great email hygiene."

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Axios Visuals

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 1,131,713 — Total deaths: 59,884 — Total recoveries: 233,591Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 278,458 — Total deaths: 7,159 — Total recoveries: 9,897Map.
  3. Public health latest: The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The federal government will cover the costs of COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
  4. 2020 latest: "I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting," President Trump said of the 2020 election, as more states hold primaries by mail. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Friday that every county in the state opted to expand mail-in voting for the state's June 2 primary.
  5. Business updates: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start. The DOT is urging airlines to refund passengers due to canceled or rescheduled flights, but won't take action against airlines that provide vouchers or credits.
  6. Oil latest: The amount of gas American drivers are consuming dropped to levels not seen in more than 25 years, government data shows. Trump is calling on the Energy Department to find more places to store oil.
  7. Tech updates: Twitter will allow ads containing references to the coronavirus under certain use cases.
  8. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Senators call for independent investigation into firing of Navy captain.
  9. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Why it matters: For the first time since the early 19th century, many parents and kids — and even grandchildren — are all under the same roof round-the-clock. And if past periods of emergency are any guide, this enforced togetherness could deepen our relationships for years to come.

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