The Corner

43 California ACA Navigators Have Criminal Convictions, Including for Forgery and Welfare Fraud

California has released some disturbing statistics on criminal backgrounds of its navigators, I report today.

A few findings:

‐At least 43 convicted criminals are working as navigators in California.

One navigator committed forgery twice in twelve years and was also convicted of burglary in between.

One navigator was convicted for committing welfare fraud and had also been caught shoplifting on at least two occasions.

Another navigator had two more forgery convictions, as well as a domestic-violence charge.

At least seven navigators had multiple convictions but were still approved.

Even though applicants are required to self-report prior offenses, records show that 21 prospective certified enrollment counselors failed to do so — and were approved anyway, even though their background check revealed criminal convictions.

In other states, a forgery, welfare-fraud, or other financial-crimes conviction automatically disqualifies applicants from becoming navigators. But in California, that’s not the case.

How concerned should Californians be? Covered California’s official spokesman says these crimes were committed in the past, and the approved navigators have reformed and paid their debt to society. Other official correspondence suggests the opposite, though. Explaining why the health exchange couldn’t release some records to National Review Online, a Covered California attorney wrote:

“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.’ (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.”

In other words, if Californians knew what their officials know about the navigators, it might deter them from signing up for Obamacare coverage. Also, that’s a fairly shameless admission of Covered California’s political goals; we’re being asked to assume that a “push to enroll vast numbers in health insurance” is within the “public interest,” and anything that deters enrollment would “harm the people.” Furthermore, we’re supposed to take that political explanation as sufficient justification for the withholding of records that may otherwise be public.

This story also touches on one other issue, as I explain:

On the one hand, it’s in the public interest to give former criminals the chance to reform themselves and make a living in the legitimate economy. On the other hand, innocent consumers deserve adequate protection of their private information, especially when they’re being compelled to buy something.

What do you think, readers? When should a past criminal conviction disqualify someone from working as a navigator, and when is it irrelevant?

Jillian Kay Melchior — Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center. She is also a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

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