Field Hearing: ObamaCare Implementation: Who are the Navigators?

Witness and Testimony Documents
Deputy Chief of Staff
Texas Department of Insurance
Regional Administrator
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Texas Association of Health Underwriters
December 16, 2013, 1:30 p.m. CST at Eisemann Center, Richardson, TX
Chairmans Hearing Statement:

Over the past several months, the President's health care law has faced one problem after another. Despite spending over $600 million, the Administration could not build a working website.

We know that the Administration released that website despite significant problems with the security testing, including the fact that the system wasn't subject to a complete security test prior to launch. Millions more people have lost their health insurance to date than have signed up for coverage through an ObamaCare exchange.

We know that because of ObamaCare's costly mandates, premiums have soared, particularly for young individuals and families. Many plans on the Exchange offer extremely narrow networks that exclude the nation's top hospitals. The President sold the health care law on false promises since millions of Americans have lost coverage and doctors that they've liked.

Today's hearing focuses on the Administration's Navigator program. The purpose of Navigators was to explain ObamaCare to people and facilitate enrollment into coverage. The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has conducted substantial oversight on the Navigators and Assister outreach program for most of this year.

In Mid-September the Committee released our initial findings in a 30-page staff report. The staff report was largely based on testimony of the senior government employees overseeing the Navigator program as well as documents obtained by the Committee.

Among the key findings in the report:

The Administration failed to conduct any analysis about whether it should require individuals hired by Navigator and Assister organizations to pass a background check and be fingerprinted.
The HHS training program for Navigators will only provide “approximately five to 20 hours of training,” down considerably from HHS’s previous estimate that it would take 20 to 30 hours to complete the online training.
The Navigator exams are conducted online and individuals may attempt the exams an unlimited number of times.
The Administration expects that individuals applying to be Navigators and Assisters will lack any experience related to health insurance and ObamaCare. Despite this expected lack of experience, an HHS official testified that it would be “logical” for Navigators and Assisters to conduct outreach activities prior to completing the training. One CMS whistleblower warned that because it may not be possible to track every computer and hard drive used by Navigators to gather applicants’ personally identifiable information (PII), the sensitive information is vulnerable.

Top HHS officials acknowledged concerns that con artists and identity thieves will pose as Navigators, and testified that this problem will only increase as ObamaCare is fully implemented. They also admitted that HHS has not yet provided consumers with a reliable way to verify the identity or authenticity of certified Navigators or Assisters. Now, that we are 2-and-a-half months into the rollout of ObamaCare, we see how right we were to raise concerns.

In Dallas, Navigators have been caught on camera advising individuals to commit tax fraud by under reporting income in order to gain higher subsidies. In Florida, a Navigator impersonator gave a television interview in which she told viewers blatantly incorrect information: that applicants’ credit scores could impact their eligibility for certain plans. In North Carolina, a Navigator grantee organization in North Carolina, has been collecting and mailing paper applications on behalf of applicants, in violation of Navigator rules and procedures.

Today’s hearing will explore the wide variety of concerns about the federal Navigator program and how Texas is acting to protect its citizens from a campaign of misinformation and potentially bad actors.

Finally, the hearing is titled “Who are the Navigators?” We invited Dr. Beverly Mitchell-Brooks, the CEO of the Dallas Urban League to testify today. The Dallas Urban League received $376,800 federal taxpayer dollars to fund its Navigator program. Unfortunately, despite our repeated requests, Dr. Mitchell-Brooks would not make herself available to testify today. Her refusal to provide Congress with answers to our questions about the Navigator program only serves to increase our concerns.