As John noted earlier today, James O’Keefe has struck again, revealing the fraudulent conduct of Obamacare “navigators” in luring prospects into that program. The party of voter fraud has indeed become the party of insurance fraud.
Last May, I discussed the central role of navigators in the implementation of Obamacare and their potential for mischief — which can occur even absent active fraud on their part.
Given O’Keefe’s blockbuster story, I thought I would repost part of what wrote six months ago on the subject:
Obamacare is predicated on inducing young, healthy people, for whom purchasing insurance may not be the best cost-benefit option, to enter the insurance market and subsidize older, not-so-healthy people. Moreover, the Obamacare penalty (I mean, tax) for not purchasing insurance may be insufficient inducement, given that the cost of a policy may well exceed the amount of the “tax.”
In this setting, outreach becomes a tricky proposition. Will those who are conducting it (the “navigators”), for the avowed purpose of maximizing participation, present a fair and balanced picture to the uninsured? [HHS official Gary] Cohen testified that they will answer all questions honestly, but will not volunteer the fact that the cost of purchasing insurance exceeds the Obamacare penalty.
So even if navigators behave exactly as the administration told Congress they will behave, they will still withhold key information from consumers.
Quite apart from the question of whether buying insurance is in the interest of the individual subject to outreach, it is important that navigators be honest, well-versed in insurance issues, and familiar with the tax implications of Obamacare (a citizen can find himself in big trouble if his relevant status changes in a given year and he fails to report the change to the IRS).
But Cohen admitted that under the regulations his agency is developing, navigators will receive only 20 to 30 hours of training through an online course. Furthermore, CMS apparently (1) will not require that navigators have a high school diploma, (2) will not require background checks of navigators, (3) will not automatically exclude felons, (4) will not automatically exclude individuals with prior involvement in identity theft, and (5) will not require that navigators have insurance to cover giving incorrect information about tax consequences. Nor, as a general matter, will navigators be subject to the standards applicable to census takers.
Yet navigators will have access to sensitive personal information about the citizens they assist. Although they are not charged with collecting information, they will help individuals fill out forms that contain personal information, such as social security numbers. Thus, they can obtain this information and, if they choose, use it or pass it along to others.
How did the Obama administration plan to go about finding navigators?
Individual navigators will be selected by organizations designated by CMS. Cohen testified that, naturally enough, CMS will look for organizations with experience working in the particular community in question, and for organizations that reflect the demographic characteristics of the community.
To me, that sounds a lot like “community organizers.” Accordingly, congressional Republicans are right to be concerned that some navigators will be use that status for purposes of partisan mischief.
We now know that this has happened. There could never have been genuine doubt that it would.