Senators should insist as part of confirmation on HHS’s release of the hard data and internal documents that would permit the independent corroboration and analysis that is especially relevant as insurers prepare plans and rates for the 2015 enrollment cycle.
Ms. Burwell should also be pressed to assess ObamaCare’s implementation so far and say what she would do differently. Amid multiple delays and executive rewrites that usually lack a legal basis, the enrollment deadline has been extended indefinitely. Large parts of the federal exchanges remain unbuilt, including small business services and the back-end operations that pass on subsidies to insurers. Major rules are unwritten, including the final employer mandate regulation.
How does Ms. Burwell intend to repair the wreckage of her predecessor’s tenure? Or will the constant improvisation continue?
The Senate has an obligation to scrutinize Ms. Burwell’s agenda and how she plans to govern the—ahem—28.5% of the federal budget that flows to health care. This is especially true for the vulnerable Democrats up for re-election who claim to favor a sheaf of ObamaCare “fixes.” If they mean it, they also should condition their votes on Ms. Burwell declaring herself on these proposals.
The Affordable Care Act invests HHS with vast new powers and employs the phrase “the Secretary shall” hundreds of times, even as Medicare regulations already bleed into all of American medicine. Republicans may lack the votes to defeat Ms. Burwell’s confirmation, but Kathleen Sebelius’s replacement should get a full-scale vetting before she assumes control.
Harry Reid is already calling for a “swift confirmation” of Burwell.
“Director Burwell deserves timely confirmation, and I hope my Republican colleagues will work with us to ensure we fill this important position without unnecessary obstruction and delay,” Reid said.