Here’s the interesting part, though: “All of these documents are nondisclosable because ‘the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record,’” a lawyer for the insurance exchange wrote, citing California Government Code §6255. “Disclosing the names and criminal records of individuals applying to assist in Covered California’s push to enroll vast numbers in health insurance by March 31, 2014, is likely to discourage participation in this critical program and thus harm the people of California.”
Translation: If Californians had the same information as their insurance exchange’s bureaucrats regarding navigators’ criminal records, they’d be scared off — and that would undermine the political goal of high enrollment.
Perhaps Californians should consider themselves lucky that their navigators are required to submit to background checks at all — there is no such requirement in the ACA itself, and in as many as 31 states, no screening is mandated.
In California, however, certified enrollment counselors must pass a fingerprint-based criminal-background check conducted by the state Department of Justice. Applicants with potentially disqualifying convictions undergo individual legal review before a hiring decision is made, and they have the chance to appeal it within 60 days.
The problem is, a background check isn’t worth much unless it’s paired with an assessment process that screens out applicants who pose a risk to the public. In California, an applicant is disqualified only if he or she has “been convicted of or has a pending charge for a crime of moral turpitude that is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the job.”
Furthermore, even though applicants are required to self-report prior offenses, records show that 21 prospective certified enrollment counselors who later proved to have criminal convictions failed to do so — and were approved anyway.
The fraud and forgery convictions, though disclosed by the applicants themselves, are the most worrying. Covered California’s Howard tells me, “There isn’t any law that says we should consider financial crimes as something that will follow you through the rest of your life, and therefore you should not have a job. That’s just not appropriate.”
But in some other states’ exchanges, financial crimes such as fraud and forgery are automatically disqualifying. And though no long-term statistics are available, the three-year recidivism rate for people convicted of fraud or forgery in California is a whopping 52.8 percent, according to a brand-new report from the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“Somebody with multiple counts of forgery — it is in their nature to commit crime,” says identity-theft expert Robert Siciliano, CEO of BestIDTheftCompanys.com. “They see crime as the path of least resistance to make a living, and it would only make sense that they would gravitate toward a profession with this kind of access.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center.