House Oversight Committee chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) on Monday excoriated the Department of Health and Human Services for its “pattern of nonresponsiveness and wanton disregard” for information requests by the Oversight Committee.
In a letter to newly minted HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Gowdy cited the committee’s “well settled” and “broad” power to request information from executive branches.
“More often than not, agency respondents choose to cooperate voluntarily, expeditiously, and in good faith with our requests,” Gowdy said. “The Department, since October of last year, has departed from this cooperative posture.”
Gowdy said that the department has “missed mutually-agreed deadlines, produced meager and incomplete sets of information (much of which is available publicly), and taken a posture of nonchalance with respect to the Committee’s requests.”
He cited the committee’s requests for information regarding disaster preparedness in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, documents related to the federal response to the opioid epidemic, information regarding Obamacare’s cost-sharing reduction payments, agency guidance, a plan for compiling said guidance and information related to the HIPAA and HITECH health privacy and security rules.
According to Gowdy, in all cases, the department provided insufficient information and was slow to respond to requests or provide status updates, sometimes to the point of never responding at all.
With regard to the committee’s request for information related to HIPAA and HITECH, Gowdy noted that the department missed its own deadline to produce documents, and said, “If you have read this far, it will come as no surprise the Department has not done so.”
“The Department’s pattern of nonresponsiveness and wanton disregard for the Committee’s requests for information undermines our ability to perform our oversight duties of the Department and its programs,” Gowdy said. “Furthermore, the Department has provided no compelling reason-legal or otherwise-for withholding documents from the Committee. This creates the appearance the Department’s legislative affairs function has fallen into a state of permanent disrepair.”
He gave the department a deadline of Feb. 5 to produce all documents and information that the committee has requested.
“Otherwise, the Committee may use compulsory process to obtain those materials,” Gowdy said.