Today Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman sent a letter to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton to address recent criticism by the Republican leadership of the Obama Administration's spending to educate the public on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Committee Republicans ignored hundreds of millions of dollars of spending on the Medicare Part D public relations efforts by the Bush Administration, including the 1-800-MEDICARE blimp, but have criticized the Obama Administration's much smaller expenditures on public education for the ACA.
Rep. Waxman wrote, "I have repeatedly called on you to carry out Committee oversight in a fair and evenhanded manner. I am concerned that your new investigation of the Obama Administration's efforts to educate the public about the new health care law fails that test."
October 11, 2012
The Honorable Fred Upton
Committee on Energy and Commerce
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Chairman Upton:
I am writing to express my concern over recent criticism by you and by other Republican leaders over efforts by the Obama Administration and the states to educate the public about the important new benefits of the Affordable Care Act. You criticized the Department of Health and Human Services for "conduct[ing] little substantive oversight" of grants awarded to states to implement new health insurance exchanges, and you described California's plan to inform the public about new insurance requirements via popular media as an effort "to subsidize Hollywood and insert propaganda into the popular culture." House Republican Conference Chair Jeb Hensarling criticized the efforts of HHS to inform the public about the new Affordable Care Act benefits and requirements as "wasting taxpayer dollars on PR campaigns."
Your letter seems to be an instance of partisan oversight. Beginning in 2003, the Bush Administration spent more than $70 million on a public relations campaign for Medicare, including an expenditure of $600,000 to fly a blimp over football stadiums, state fairs, and an auto race to promote its 1-800-MEDICARE information line. After the Medicare Part D drug benefit was passed into law, the Bush Administration spent even more, planning a three-year, $300 million public relations campaign that included a $25 million advertising campaign and a bus tour featuring high-level Administration officials that visited 100 cities in 2005. A 2006 GAO report that I requested found that in total, the Bush Administration spent over $1.6 billion on public relations and media contracts in a two-and-a-half year span.
Despite the fact that the Bush Administration spent vastly more taxpayer funds on public relations than the amount for which you are now criticizing the Obama Administration, I am not aware of you criticizing, or asking for oversight of these actions. To the best of my recollection, you also remained silent when GAO found that the Bush Administration violated the prohibition on using funds for covert propaganda in promoting Medicare Part D.
I have repeatedly called on you to carry out Committee oversight in a fair and evenhanded manner. I am concerned that your new investigation of the Obama Administration's efforts to educate the public about the new health care law fails that test.
Henry A. Waxman