A new House panel report slammed the navigator program, calling the bulk of Obamacare’s helpers untrustworthy, rule violators and fraud enablers, while saying they’re putting consumers and their personal information at risk.
Navigators have been misleading enrollees, Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said, and haven’t done enough to keep secure consumers’ health information, Social Security numbers, annual income and other sensitive tax data.
Worse yet, navigators have violated HHS rules and procedures, and even encouraged applicants to commit tax fraud, the committee said Monday.
“Reports indicate that navigators gave consumers incorrect information about the enrollment process; some navigators went so far as to encourage consumers to commit tax fraud by underreporting income in order to qualify for ObamaCare’s health insurance subsidies,” the report said.
There also have been reports of navigators advising applicants to lie about smoking habits to obtain a lower monthly premium.
For instance, the report pointed out that navigators from the Urban League of Dallas were captured on video encouraging applicants to lie on their health insurance application so the applicants could qualify for tax subsidies.
Additionally, the report said “some navigators assisted applicants before completing their 5 to 20 hour online training course, and others took custody of paper applications and mailed them for the applicant, violating the rule that applicants must mail in the application themselves.”
The report is based on briefings the Oversight Committee conducted with top administration officials, including Gary Cohen, the director of the agency in charge of the navigator program. The Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., also said HHS officials learned of navigator incidents from various news reports due to the “complete lack of any internal oversight.”
“Documents call into question the effectiveness of the Navigator program and the Obama administration’s ability to safeguard consumer information,” the committee report concluded.
The committee also said “navigators were essentially useless” as problems plagued HealthCare.gov.
The report was released in conjunction with a field hearing the committee is holding Monday in Dallas called, “ObamaCare implementation: Who are the Navigators?”
It’s not the first attack on the navigator program.
The committee released a preliminary staff report in September that highlighted the “significant risks for fraud, abuse, and misinformation due to the lack of background checks, inadequate training standards, and weak Administration oversight plan for navigators and assisters.”
GOP senators this summer also slammed the program’s leniency and “unreasonably low standards” arguing a convicted felon could qualify as a navigator and get access to consumers’ confidential health information.
Navigators do not have to undergo background checks or fingerprinting. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently admitted that it is “possible” a convicted felon could become a navigator.
But Sebelius downplayed the new navigator report and the hearing, saying it’s just a new way of undermining the law.
Meanwhile, the report said Cohen “admitted there is a need for better training on the issue through the ongoing education process” and did not rule out “requiring navigators to report tax fraud in the future.” Still, the committee said the Obama administration “has not taken the necessary steps to prevent this type of tax fraud.”