Rep. Cummings suggests deletions without a public comment period may be illegal.
The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee demanded information Tuesday about the decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to scrub information relating to the 2010 Affordable Care Act from its websites and suggested the action may have been illegal.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., penned a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma Tuesday asking for all information related to the decision to delete or relocate content on the HHS or CMS websites since President Trump’s inauguration, as well as the department’s policies for making changes to its public-facing website content.
Cummings’s request comes after a report by the Sunlight Foundation’s Web Integrity Project that found that 14 pages of materials related to the 2010 Affordable Care Act had either been deleted or changed without notice. Of particular note were the removal of pages discussing issues like eligibility and coordination with states’s insurance exchanges.
Although some of the information had been moved to a more general page, without the context of the Affordable Care Act, other elements were taken out entirely even though they were “still accurate and relevant,” according to the Sunlight Foundation.
“The deletion of this information from the Medicare.gov website may violate the Paperwork Reduction Act, which requires agencies to ‘provide adequate notice when initiating, substantially modifying, or terminating significant information dissemination products,’” Cummings wrote. “In this instance, it does not appear that the department provided such notice prior to scrubbing this content from this website.”
In a statement in response to Cummings’s earlier inquiries, a CMS spokesperson suggested it is no longer necessary to have Obamacare-specific Web pages on the Medicare and Medicaid websites.
“CMS performs routine updates and maintenance to our websites, which includes the revision and removal of content that is not current or underutilized,” the spokesperson wrote. “In this instance, there was a period of time when people with Medicare coverage had questions and interest in the ACA and its impact on Medicare. However, the ACA has now been law for over eight years and both Healthcare.gov and [CMS.gov] are well-established sites for Health Care Exchange information.”