This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) prohibiting federal funds from being allocated to the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO)—which was established by the Obama administration to enforce private health insurance companies’ compliance with a major health care law signed into law by President Obama in 2010. This amendment was offered to a continuing resolution funding the federal government through September 2011, and cutting $61 billion in federal funding for many government programs.
While President Obama created CCIIO within the Health and Human Services Department in order to enforce the health care law, that law (known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) did not specifically authorize funding for this office. Thus, Republican critics of CCIIO argued that it was operating without congressional approval or oversight.
Burgess urged support for his amendment: “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act never mentions, never authorizes, never appropriates money to the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight… So, without congressional authorization…CCIIO, proceeded to hire staff, estimated to be 200 people by the end of last year. They have rented office space in Bethesda [in Maryland]….This center has been allowed, without congressional authorization, without congressional oversight, to make the decisions that will affect all sectors of the American population. Without any due diligence or any congressional oversight, no agency or center should be able to obtain funding, carry out their own agenda, implement policy, write regulation, and remain largely unchecked.”
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) opposed the amendment: “I respect Dr. [Rep.] Burgess a great deal, but I have no idea why he would be opposed to having an agency that is essentially putting a check on the insurance companies. The problem is that the insurance companies keep raising rates, they don't show the consumer what the real benefits that they're receiving are, and what we need is more transparency and some way to review these insurance premium rates so that they don't get out of hand. The fact of the matter is that this agency, working with states, has already had great success. In Connecticut, regulators recently rejected a proposed 20 percent rate increase by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield….Why are you objecting to us trying to put a check on these insurance companies that keep raising their rates at outrageous levels?”
The House agreed to this amendment by a vote of 239-182. Voting “yea” were 235 Republicans and 4 Democrats. 181 Democrats and 1 Republican voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment prohibiting funds provided by a continuing resolution from being allocated to the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.