The GOP has questioned the Obama administration for transferring money from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and also from the National Institute of Health, to finance federally funded HealthCare.gov. A Republican Congressman hailing from suburban Atlanta, Rep. Jody Hice, has described the arrangement in Biblical terms as forcefully taking money from one person to pay the other.
At a hearing held recently, Hice complained that millions of dollars being transferred by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2014 from the two agencies to assist the functioning of the insurance marketplace operating in 37 states. The total cost of operating the marketplace was calculated at $1.4 billion dollars.
HHS officials however, asserted that they have the authority to transfer money from one agency to another if both of them fall under their jurisdiction. They have also pointed out that only a meager 0.25 percent of the total funding of each department was utilized to shore up the healthcare exchange. It has a total of 50 departments, including substance abuse treatment, global health and AIDS programs.
Adequate funding was not granted by the Congressional Democrats to support the federally-run exchange and its subsequent operations due to the anticipation that states would administer their own marketplaces. Instead, the majority of states chose to depend on federal government funding, leaving the HHS in a hurry to arrange the money required to execute the job.
The HHS, in 2013, extracted $454 million from Prevention and Public Health Fund, that had a total outlay of $15 billion. The fund was created by the new health law. About $158 million were also taken from the Health Insurance Reform Implementation Fund of the health law, as per data obtained from Congressional Research Service.
HHS officials have admitted to the use of their power to shift funds between different budget categories before healthcare came into existence. The list of such cases include caring for children who crossed the US-Mexico border unaccompanied, financing cyber-security and assisting states to provide medicines for individuals diagnosed with AIDS.
According to Joe Antos of American Enterprise Institute, a conservative body, there is no doubt that officials have the right to transfer money within departments under their jurisdiction. He said the only question in this regard is whether it is the best method to provide funds to the federal exchange.