Topics: Obamacare

Top Obamacare jobs vacant for months at HHS as Baucus fears 'train wreck,' Issa demands docs

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Top executive jobs have been vacant for months at the Department of Health and Human Services key Obamacare insurance program, but officials there refuse to talk about the problem.

The vacancies appear to support Sen. Max Baucus' complaint Wednesday to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that Obamacare is headed toward a "train wreck."

Baucus, a Montana Democrat, is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and was a key architect of Obamacare in 2010. Sebelius was testifying before the panel on how her department is implementing Obamacare.

"You need data. Do you have any data? You've never given me data. You only give me concepts, frankly," the senator told Sebelius, referring to how HHS has handled implementation of Obamacare more generally.

The vacancies are at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, a key federal agency established under Obamacare to implement major parts of the health reform.

Evidence has been mounting for months of management problems within CCIIO. Vacancies have plagued the center since its inception. The center now has its third director in three years.

Other vacancies are in CCIIO's financial management group and consumer service division. The vacancies have been listed for months on CCIIO's website.

An HHS spokesman refused to comment, despite repeated requests from The Washington Examiner.

The specific vacancies fall on three vital areas: consumer protection, financial operations and the establishment of 24 health care co-operatives start-ups.

Two of the top four executive slots are unfilled in the insurance program office, which oversees the establishment of the $2 billion health care cooperative start-ups.

The job of insurance director is being performed by Teresa Miller on an acting basis. She splits her time between the Insurance Group and a CCIIO oversight group.

Three of five director positions are vacant at CCIIO's Payment Policy and Financial Management Group.

The vacancy in the consumer services director post may partially explain what Baucus said resulted in the fact "small businesses have no idea what to do, what to expect."

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., recently echoed Baucus' complaints about lack of responsiveness from HHS on Obamacare implementation.

Issa is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"HHS did not provide a single document" the committee requested, Issa told Sebelius in a March 25 letter, a comment repeated by other congressional oversight committees including the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

The vacancies may also contribute to multiple problems in the $2 billion Obamacare co-op program that have been reported by The Washington Examiner. Among the problems are hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made by CCIIO to groups led by executives with criminal records, as well groups with abyssmal ratings by state insurance regulators, little or no experience in health insurance management or operations, apparent conflicts of interest between CCIIO advisors and loan recipients, and other indicators of inadequate management.

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