In advance of another of the ObamaCare-related field hearings that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have been holding around the country throughout the past few weeks — this time on the thousands of “navigators” designated to help people sign up — the committee released a report detailing their concerns about the episodes of inefficiency, mismanagement, and possible fraud stemming from the program. Chairman Darrell Issa and Rep. Pete Sessions explained further in an op-ed they penned for the Dallas Morning News on Monday:
To help the American people navigate the onerous and confusing requirements of signing up for Obamacare exchanges, the administration spent millions of taxpayer dollars to create the navigator program. Disturbingly, news reports from the last four weeks have highlighted numerous examples of fraudulent activity related to health navigators in Texas. So — who are these navigators and what is their role in Obamacare?
To help answer that question, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is holding a field hearing Monday at the Charles Eisemann Center in Richardson. Implementation of the program — much like the rest of the law — is off to a rocky start. This hearing follows eight months of Oversight Committee investigation and will address concerns that Obamacare’s navigator program lacks basic federal guidelines to protect Americans’ private information, reports of fraud and what officials in Texas are doing about it.
Funded by grants of taxpayer dollars to nongovernment groups, navigators are allowed to ask Americans for confidential financial and personally identifiable information. This is concerning for a number of reasons.
Among those reasons, write Sessions and Issa, are the fact that the law neither bars convicted felons from being navigator nor even requires screening for them; that the training navigators receive after hiring is grossly inadequate, with only a five- to twenty-hour training course and a followup quiz being the standard procedure; and that the lack of federal oversight of the navigator program has already led to reports of improper and illegal behavior.
And yet, apparently, the real fault here belongs to the GOP here for drawing attention to all of these inconvenient facts, and for trying to “stifle, intimidate, and impugn” navigators — according to HHS Secretary Sebelius in her competing op-ed, anyway:
Millions of Texans don’t have the security of health coverage. In fact, Texas has the highest rate of uninsured in the nation. Yet there are some who will seemingly stop at nothing to deter Texans — and those who assist them — from obtaining coverage or even learning about their new options under the Affordable Care Act.
What opponents of the new law could not do legislatively, at the ballot box, or even by shutting down the federal government, they’re now trying to do through other means. Case in point is Monday’s congressional hearing in Dallas, designed to stifle, intimidate and impugn the reputation of people who have been working hard to help their fellow Texans get covered.
Just who are these people working to assist their fellow Texans? Those I’ve met are dedicated, civic-minded Americans who have opened their hearts to their neighbors, because they want to help
Which, predictably, was just about the same tone White House Press Secretary Jay Carney struck when asked about the hearing delving into the navigators issue during today’s briefing, via Mediaite:
With an exasperated pause, Carney replied “This is just one more data point in the Republican obsession with sabotaging Obamacare,” adding that “All health care navigators must complete about 20 hours of training, including training on privacy issues,” and receive “regular refresher training.”
Carney read the navigator requirements in further detail, then turned his attention to the Republicans. “Let’s pull back here for a minute,” Carney said. “When Republicans attack navigators, they’re attacking folks like the University of Arkansas, the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, the Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, Ascension Health, Ohio Association of Food Banks, and the National Urban League. These are just a few of the organizations that actually hire and supervise these navigators.”
Huh. Here I was thinking that the Oversight Committee was simply doing its precise job by conscientiously acting as a check upon the Obama administration in orchestrating what has clearly been the rushed and forcible makeover of the entire healthcare sector, with so many millions’ of Americans deeply sensitive personal and financial information on the line — especially with all of the rampant ObamaCare-related examples of incompetence and gross negligence we now have on the books. Go figure.