September 2, 2014

Obamacare’s unnecessary “Navigators” a colossal waste of taxpayer money

Sally C. Pipes
Guest Columnist

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently gifted Obamacare’s “navigator” program an additional $13 million in funding. Navigators are supposed to help Americans purchase health coverage through the new, state-level insurance exchanges.
This $13 million is on top of $54 million already allocated to the program. But both eight-figure expenditures represent colossal wastes of taxpayer money. The publicly funded navigator program is entirely unnecessary — and ripe for fraud and abuse.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that about seven million people will shop for coverage in Obamacare’s insurance exchanges in 2014.
But they may not know it yet. According to a recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, fully 55 percent of uninsured Americans have never heard of the exchanges.
The law envisions that navigators will help fill that information gap — and guide consumers through the process of purchasing health insurance. Qualified individuals, non-profits, and community groups have claimed millions in HHS grants to spread the word — and eventually help people pick the plan that best suits their needs.
California is planning to use a whopping $673 million in federal money to deploy 21,000 navigators to sign people up for its exchange, Covered California. The navigators get a bounty of $58 for every person they sign up — and $25 for every annual renewal.
Health insurance is complicated, and many Americans shopping in the exchanges would surely benefit from some expert advice. But there’s a group that already does exactly what Obamacare has in mind for navigators. And that’s the private insurance agent and broker community.
It makes little sense to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to furnish a service that the private sector already provides.
And those millions in new expenses could put scores of agents and brokers out of work, as navigators amount to government-funded competition for insurance agents. Federal law bars agents and brokers from serving as navigators.
Not exactly the sort of job-creating strategy America’s anemic economy needs.
Then there’s the risk of fraud the navigator program portends.
Navigators will be tasked with entering patients’ private data, such as their Social Security number, into insurance applications. The government claims that personal data handed over to navigators will be properly protected. But regulators haven’t spelled out data privacy rules. Navigators are likely to operate with little to no government oversight.
Technically, navigators who use consumers’ personal information for nefarious purposes could face fines, but there’s no clear statute holding them personally liable.
HHS insists that navigators will be well-trained and certified. But the official navigator training course is a mere 20 hours. That’s 10 hours fewer than Obamacare’s framers initially said would be necessary — and substantially less time than the standard certification process for an insurance broker.
Applicants for navigator positions are not required to undergo even basic background and fingerprint checks. And the agency’s rules are silent on whether prior criminal acts disqualify someone from becoming a navigator. Even census workers face more stringent privacy requirements than do navigators.
It’s no wonder, then, that attorneys general in 13 states concluded in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last month that her “agency’s current guidance regarding [navigators] suffers numerous deficiencies.”
Obamacare’s navigator program is costly and unnecessary. It could destroy the jobs of private insurance agents and brokers — and put millions of Americans at risk of fraud and identity theft. Congress should scrap it.
Sally C. Pipes is President, CEO, and Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is The Cure for Obamacare (Encounter 2013).

Comments

  1. Judith Rogers says:

    I would say Sally is a Republican and probably making very little effort in helping those poor people without heath insurance get some. More and more I find that Republicans don’t help the middle class or the poor – they seem to be working hard to destroy them and they will find out the hard way, it is going to come back and bite them on their rears in many, many ways especially since the workers of America are the backbone of this country.

  2. Because ALL Republicans are wealthy and not part of the middle class or the poor? There are no Republicans that are the backbone of this country?

    Judith’s mindset is exactly why this country is a mess today. They are selfish and refuse to listen to each other, they would rather fight about what shade the sky is then work together. Heaven forbid a Dem and a Rep actually agree on something.

  3. Judith Rogers says:

    Yes, Beasley, the Red Republicans truly showed their colors with the most recent government shutdown with their lack of agreeing on about anything and wanting to hold the people hostage to get their way, just like you have had a hard time on working on the EUB since apparently you didn’t get your way, stomped your foot and resigned. Brownback and his fellow Republicans have made it crystal clear as to who they work for. Just as Sutton mentioned this past week he doesn’t want any judge telling the legislators what they are to spend for education and he and other fellow Republicans have had similar opinions on lots of things – Republicans have set themselves up as Gods who don’t answer to any entity. Good ole Kline got his wings clipped this past week by thinking he can bend any rule or law out there. This Republican legislature in the past year session proved to me they were more interested in setting up gun culture communities than they are in helping those less fortunate than themselves. One good Republican is Insurance Commissioner Praeger who has proven she governs and works for all Kansans but she sure as hell has received no help from Brownback or most Republicans in the state of Kansas and many, many Kansans suffer because of it. I look most closely at the words, actions, inaction and voting records of Republicans here in Kansas and I can say I don’t like what they are doing, enabling and supporting. Now you can spin that any way you want to, Beasley.

  4. I spin it the way I spin all your “opinions” they are hateful, hurtful. negative, hateful, spiteful, malicious, rude, and hateful.

  5. Judith Rogers says:

    Beasley, you got so excited there you have started stuttering………..3 hatefuls in one sentence……you know all about the hate mongering and telling of lies ever since your recall activities and I am sure before and after………….I know one thing – you “hate” my opinions and you are just going to have to hate them – I hate to think what will be happening to you after the stuttering……..I am a registered Independent and I have many valid reasons for doing so and one of them is because of Republicans such as yourself.

  6. Judith I love your opinions. They give me good direction in life. I really don’t know what I would do without you. In fact I’ve written you a song. It goes like this. Some day I hope to sing it to you…

    See the stone set in your eyes
    See the thorn twist in your side
    I wait for you

    Sleight of hand and twist of fate
    On a bed of nails she makes me wait
    And I wait without you

    With or without you
    With or without you

    Through the storm we reach the shore
    You give it all but I want more
    And I’m waiting for you

    With or without you
    With or without you
    I can’t live
    With or without you

    And you give yourself away
    And you give yourself away
    And you give
    And you give
    And you give yourself away

    My hands are tied
    My body bruised, she’s got me with
    Nothing to win and
    Nothing left to lose

    And you give yourself away
    And you give yourself away
    And you give
    And you give
    And you give yourself away

    With or without you
    With or without you
    I can’t live
    With or without you

    With or without you
    With or without you
    I can’t live
    With or without you
    With or without you

  7. Judith Rogers says:

    Now I know what comes after the stuttering………Poetry 101 or perhaps it should be called poor poetry…………

  8. Judith Rogers says:

    Perhaps, Beasley, you now see yourself as Gardner’s Troubadour or you will start speaking in tongues ………

  9. Too big of words for me Judith.

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