The Obama administration has spent millions of taxpayer dollars to create a navigator program to help people wade through the onerous requirements of signing up for Obamacare.
Today at 1:30 PM CT, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will be holding a field hearing at the Charles Eisemann Center in Richardson, Texas to answer the question – who are these navigators and what is their role in Obamacare?
In an oped for The Dallas Morning News, Rep Pete Sessions Congressional (R-TX) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) indicated their reason for choosing Texas for their hearing:
Disturbingly, news reports from the last four weeks have highlighted numerous examples of fraudulent activity related to health navigators in Texas.
The congressmen are referring to Project Veritas’ investigative videos in Texas showing Obamacare Navigators counseling applicants on how to lie about on how to lie on government forms, evade legal requirements, and ignore proper procedures. As a result of O’Keefe’s investigation into ObamaCare fraud, 5 Navigators have been fired, suspended, or resigned.
Issa and Sessions write:
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.
First, the law does not bar — or even require screening for — convicted felons, including individuals convicted of identity theft or fraud. This is particularly dangerous because navigators may have access to applicants’ personally identifiable information, including Social Security number, date of birth, address, phone number and annual income. This poorly conceived program endangers families and individuals across the country by heightening the risk of identity theft or financial loss.
In letters, interviews with administration officials, hearings and reports, Congress has repeatedly asked the administration: Why has the federal government failed to issue proper consumer protection guidelines for Obamacare’s navigators? Even as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted before Congress that the lack of federal requirements raises a “possible” problem, the administration has continued to call common-sense safeguards “cumbersome.”
Second, navigators are only required to take a five- to 20-hour online training course and pass a quiz that they can take as many times as needed.
The lack of sufficient training for navigators stands in stark contrast to the requirements placed upon health care underwriters whose job it is to help people enroll in health insurance plans. The American people deserve to know why the administration believes that inadequately trained navigators are qualified to help guide them through such an important process as signing up for health care.
Finally, the lack of federal oversight of the navigator program has already led to reports of improper and illegal behavior, including two instances in North Texas. In Dallas, a navigator recommended that an applicant lie about his income in order to qualify for additional subsidies to lessen the costs of his health care plan. In Irving, a part-time receptionist who worked at a navigator center encouraged an individual to lie about his tobacco use to keep his premiums down.
James O’Keefe, President and Founder of Project Veritas, said in a statement, “Senator Cornyn, Senator Cruz, Congressman Sessions and others have expressed grave concern over the fraud and abuse exposed by Project Veritas’ investigation. This hearing is a step in the right direction in hopes of limiting fraud and abuse and ensuring the right services get to the right people.”
The hearing will be streamed live at the Committee on Government Oversight and Reform website.
Correction: Oops, sorry – The hearing does NOT seem to be streaming live, anywhere. I assumed too much. Issa’s opening statement, however, has been posted at the link.