Portman asks for investigation on overpayments under Obamacare

Sen. Rob Portman called on the Obama administration to investigate whether the federal government is providing more financial help than allowed by the 2010 health law to Americans buying individual health insurance policies.

In a letter Thursday to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Portman, R-Ohio, said the agency needs to investigate reports of overpayments of federal subsidies to those qualifying for individual policies while ensuring the federal dollars flow toward those people who truly need the money.

Portman cited a Washington Post story last month that reported that as many as 1.5 million Americans might be receiving the wrong federal subsidy because of technical defects on the government’s health care web site.

“Despite assurances by the administration to the contrary, they have yet to put in place a mechanism to assure the people who are getting their subsidies under (the new health law) are eligible for them,” Portman said in a speech on the Senate floor. “This is a major problem because we are talking about billions and billions of dollars.”

The 2010 health care law expands insurance to a sizable number of the 46 million Americans without coverage, in part, by expanding Medicaid – the joint federal and state program that provides coverage to low-income Americans.

But the law also allows middle-income people to buy policies through a series of federal and state marketplaces known as exchanges. Many middle-income people can receive federal subsidies to help them afford the insurance.

Portman released his letter the same day he voted to confirm Sylvia Mathews Burwell as secretary of Health and Human Services. Portman and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, were among 67 senators voting to confirm Mathews. She replaces Kathleen Sebelius who resigned under fire in April.

“I think she’s a manager and I think that’s what we need right now at the” health agency,” Portman said.

Obama hailed the Senate vote, saying Mathews “is a proven manager who knows how to deliver results, and over her career she has built deep relationships with Democrats and Republicans alike.”

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