Watchdog requests IRS review of group that is promoting ObamaCare

By Sam Baker – 07/29/13 12:40 PM ET

A watchdog group is asking the IRS to review the tax-exempt status of a organization crucial in helping to promote ObamaCare.

Cause of Action has asked the IRS to investigate Enroll America, a nonprofit that is encouraging people to enroll in new coverage options under the healthcare law.

The watchdog group said Enroll America should not have received tax-exempt status because its work helps secure new customers for insurance companies.

“If Enroll America is designed to benefit insurance companies instead of the American public, then its charitable status no longer applies,” said Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action. “An organization that has been granted tax deductible status but is actually depriving the American people of taxable revenue warrants an investigation.”

Enroll America is a known ally of the White House, and was established to help raise awareness of new insurance options available under ObamaCare. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has made fundraising calls for the organization.

Enroll America National Communications Director Jessica Barba Brown said the objections are baseless.

“This complaint is completely without merit,” she said. “Enroll America is focused solely on helping to educate American consumers about the new health insurance benefits created by the Affordable Care Act.  The IRS has reviewed both the mission of Enroll America and in most cases the exact statements that Cause for Action is citing, and found that Enroll America qualifies for 501(c)(3) status.”The request for additional IRS scrutiny comes after conservatives have taken aim at the agency over its treatment of certain advocacy organizations, including those affiliated with the Tea Party, during the 2012 elections.

Enroll America is classified as a 501(c)3 organization, citing a charitable and educational mission to “maximize the number of lower- and moderate-income people either enrolled in Medicaid or certified for exchange-based subsidies.”

Enroll America’s aim is not to promote the healthcare law politically, but to encourage people to sign up for the new insurance options the law provides. The group’s leader is a former White House official, but it has also partnered with insurance companies and other industry players to focus on enrollment.

Cause of Action said the organization should not have tax-exempt status because increased ObamaCare enrollment will benefit the healthcare industries that sit on Enroll America’s board.

“As Enroll America’s purpose is so closely aligned with the commercial interests of these for-profit entities, its activities thus far demonstrate that it is little more than a trade association for the healthcare industry, employing marketing tactics and its high-level access to executive branch officials as a means to increase the sale of healthcare services,” Cause of Action’s complaint states.

Cause of Action describes itself as a nonpartisan watchdog group that fights government regulation and spending. Its executive director is a former aide to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). the powerful chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and has worked for the powerful conservative donors Charles and David Koch.

— This story was updated at 2:54 p.m. and 5:04 p.m.