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By Charles Ornstein, ProPublica acalogo

San Francisco architect Lee Hammack says he and his wife, JoEllen Brothers, are “cradle Democrats.” They have donated to the liberal group Organizing for America and worked the phone banks a year ago for President Obama’s re-election.

Since 1995, Hammack and Brothers have received their health coverage from Kaiser Permanente, where Brothers worked until 2009 as a dietician and diabetes educator. “We’ve both been in very good health all of our lives – exercise, don’t smoke, drink lightly, healthy weight, no health issues, and so on,” Hammack told me.

By Fred Schulte, Center for Public Integrity HHSOIG

Facing major budget and staff cuts, federal officials are scaling back several high-profile health care fraud and abuse investigations, including an audit of the state insurance exchanges that are set to open later this year as a key provision of the Affordable Care Act.

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, which investigates Medicare and Medicaid waste, fraud and abuse, is in the process of  losing a total of 400 staffers — or about 20 percent of the workforce — from its peak strength of 1,800 last year. About 200 of those staffers will have departed by the end of this year, and the other 200 are slated to be gone by the end of 2015.