Emails (excerpted), Fabien Levy, press secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 18-20, 2014

From: Selby, Gardner (CMG-Austin)

Sent: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 4:09 PM

To: 'Levy, Fabien M. (OS/ASPA)'

Subject: Urgent Texas inquiry for a PolitiFact Texas fact check


I write seeking contact information for Mark Sullivan, the individual mentioned in an oped article by Secretary Sebelius published in today’s Austin newspaper. I also seek any elaboration on the secretary’s claim about Sullivan. Sebelius wrote that Sullivan, 31, “found a good plan that includes dental, for less than $80 a month.”

6:39 a.m.

March 19, 2014

Here is a statement attributable to HHS spokesman Fabien Levy: "Mark Sullivan is one of more than 5 million consumers who has already signed up for coverage in the Marketplace and is one of millions of Americans who received a tax subsidy to make his coverage more affordable. In fact, thanks to his tax subsidy, Mark’s premium was cut in half, and he chose to use some of that extra money to add dental coverage to his plan for the low cost of $15 a month. Thanks to the affordable coverage available through the Marketplace, Mark is now living out his dream as an entrepreneur."

From: Selby, Gardner (CMG-Austin) []

Sent: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 04:37 PM

To: Levy, Fabien M. (OS/ASPA)

Subject: Last call for back-up evidence on claim by Sebelius


Hello again.


To recap: Secretary Sebelius described an Austin resident’s success obtaining health coverage plus dental for less than $80 a month. Her oped column, which ran in several Texas daily newspapers, did not mention that the resident achieved this price by getting a subsidy. As you noted, the article also incorrectly presented this price as the cost of both the resident’s health and dental coverage.




I am following up, too, to ask HHS and Secretary Sebelius for detailed information documenting--proving out—the described insurance policies could have been purchased at the described prices at the time the Austin resident reportedly enrolled. As you may know, our fact checks rely in part on evidence offered up by whoever we’re checking that backs up what has been said. In this case, we are focused on what Sebelius wrote—that on HealthCare.Gov, Texan Mark Sullivan “found a good" health insurance "plan that includes dental, for less than $80 a month.”


I hope to complete our review soon. Right now, I have no evidence that the terms were achieved.




W. Gardner Selby


PolitiFact Texas


Austin American-Statesman

From: Levy, Fabien M.

Sent: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 4:20 PM

To: Selby, Gardner (CMG-Austin)

Subject: Re: Last call for back-up evidence on claim by Sebelius


We spoke to Mark Sullivan.

You should speak to him and he can confirm he's spoken to us.

From: Selby, Gardner (CMG-Austin) []

Sent: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 04:56 PM

To: Levy, Fabien M. (OS/ASPA)

Subject: RE: Last call for back-up evidence on claim by Sebelius


I did and just heard back from him. I don’t know yet what he’ll provide. I am also trying to collect whatever backup evidence Sebelius wants to provide given that this was her claim.


Anything else on the rest of my email?

From: Selby, Gardner (CMG-Austin) []

Sent: Thursday, March 20, 2014 02:24 PM

To: Levy, Fabien M. (OS/ASPA)

Subject: Following up


I fielded no reply from you to my other questions to you about the secretary’s statement.


ALSO: Why is the bronze plan touted by Sebelius a “good” plan given that it requires purchasers to spend thousands of dollars out of pocket each year before it pays for medical procedures?


Thanks, again.




2:37 p.m.

March 20, 2014

I sent you the statement on the dental so you should be good there. Mark is paying $78 a month after the tax credit so that piece was accurate for how much he spends out of pocket. Mark has personally described it to the Secretary at an event (as well as to me) as a good plan and talked about how happy he is with the coverage. I guess the only way to confirm that is through Mark.

We sent notes to all the papers that ran the op-ed asking them to correct the dental error. You can check with the papers to confirm receipt.

The Dallas paper has already updated the column online and included the blurb below. I believe the paper plans to run a correction in the printed paper.

UPDATE: The original column said that Mark Sullivan's plan, priced at less than $80 a month, included dental coverage. The Health and Human Services office contacted Viewpoints 3/19 to say that dental coverage is not included. This column has been updated to reflect that change.

The Austin paper said they would correct the op-ed, the McAllen paper already has, as did the El Paso paper.

Hope this all helps.