Republicans blast Education Department role in Obamacare

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Robby Soave Reporter
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A group of Republican senators sent a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan questioning his department’s role in the implementation of Obamacare.

Duncan told a Politico reporter last month that there was a team at the Department of Education helping to implement the Affordable Care Act, in part by making students and schools aware of the law’s ramifications.

Duncan also said that Education Department officials spoke at several university commencement ceremonies and informed students that they may now stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26. The information drew hearty applause from graduates, he said.

“We want to be a good partner and work with schools and universities,” he said in the interview. “Whatever we can do to be helpful.”

But the Education Department’s involvement in Obamacare is drawing scrutiny from Senate Republicans, who believe that responsibility should fall under the Department of Health and Human Service’s Authority.

“While we understand that the effects of the President’s health care law will be felt by parents, teachers, and their families, we are unfamiliar with how the Department of Education’s involvement in implementation will further the mission of educating our nation’s students,” said the letter.

The senators have asked for information regarding the number of Education Department employees working on the Obamacare-implementation team, how the work advances the department’s mission of educating the nation’s students, and where the authority to do such work comes from.

“How much is the Department of Education spending this fiscal year to further the implementation of the President’s health care law, and how much does the Department of Education anticipate spending in each fiscal year from 2014 to 2017?  What specific appropriation accounts and programs are being used?” the letter asked.

The letter was written by Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. It was signed by 17 other Republican senators.

Alexander previously criticized Obamacare for hurting college students, since the health care law is partly funded through savings in the Stafford student loan program. If that money was recycled back into student loans, the government could afford to lower interest rates.

“The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if we applied that $61 billion savings to student loans, we could have reduced the interest rates to about 5.3 percent and save the average student $2,200 over 10 years,” he said.

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