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January 24 2014

Navigator Crackdown: It Takes a State

Patrice J. Lee

ObamaCare navigators will now face new vetting requirements and greater training and oversight thanks to state efforts to prevent fraud and identity theft.

Navigators are paid workers who advise consumers on buying coverage in the online federal marketplace. Farmed from community organizations, many with ACORN ties, these individuals have had little or no vetting and oversight despite having access to the private information of American citizens. Insurance and consumer groups have from the start decried the lax screening and lack of background checks for those who could be thieves and criminals. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius even told Congress late last year that it was “possible” for convicted felons to be working as navigators.

Fed up with waiting for the Administration to tighten federal rules, last week, bills were introduced in Arizona, Colorado, and Virginia to require beefed up background checks for navigators –eliminating anyone convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving fraud. Insurance regulators in Texas just tightened navigator rules in an effort to combat fraud as well. South Carolina and Louisiana are considering similar legislation.

The Goldwater Institute, which has been tracking this issue, explains:

According to federal rules, the Obamacare navigator program does not preclude groups or individuals convicted of fraud or identity theft from serving as navigators, even though navigators have unprecedented access to the financial, health, employment and identification records of private citizens. The federal law also lacks any penalties for navigators who are simply careless with sensitive data.

Under the legislation introduced this week by state lawmakers, applicants would be required to complete background checks before serving as navigators, and those convicted of felonies or misdemeanors involving fraud or dishonesty would be barred from becoming navigators.

In Colorado, where navigator grant recipients have made waves for racy recruitment efforts encouraging young people to engage in high-risk behavior, one physician lawmaker says safeguards must be put into place that treats people’s sensitive health information with more gravitas.

The bills dropped by state lawmakers this week would also empower state authorities to revoke Obamacare navigator grants for negligent loss of private information.

And the Dallas Morning News reports on new navigator provisions in Texas:

Texas’ top insurance regulator on Tuesday softened some provisions of a new state rule on health insurance “navigators” but insisted they receive additional training and undergo background checks and fingerprinting.

Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber dropped a so-called gag rule that some Democratic state senators warned could prevent navigators from helping consumers sort out the pros and cons of policies offered in the federal government’s health insurance marketplace.

Rathgeber also reduced to 20 hours, from 40, the additional training the state would require. She added a provision to keep the rule from applying to relatives helping a person shop for health insurance.

However, she retained most of the state’s new demands for surety bonds and malpractice insurance, as well as state registration and more classroom work.

It’s no question that the Administration has not taken seriously issues with hiring people to peddle ObamaCare. They need bodies in their flawed healthcare exchanges and they will do whatever, by whomever, and spending whatever they must to get the job done. It’s unfortunate that our officials are willing to risk the security and safety of Americans’ privacy.

So far, have any navigators been caught in wrong doing? Yes, although not quite what we predicted. We reported last fall, navigators were caught on tape advising applicants to lie on their application and promoting fraud against the government. That’s not to say a navigator wouldn’t or hasn’t already misused the information she has access to.

States aren’t waiting for the big headline to break, and rightly so. That states are taking protection of their citizens and enforcement into their own hands, underscores a state-federal battle. In this case, states are prioritizing the privacy of their citizens while the Administration’s priority is its big government agenda. Critics claim these efforts are political road blocking to derail ObamaCare. However, I guarantee that if a salacious headline breaks, they will be the first to jump on the oversight bandwagon.

Let’s hope more states will be emboldened to follow suit.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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