With six weeks to go before Obamacare begins to be implemented, the Department of Health and Human Services has finally passed out $67 million to hire “navigators” to help the uninsured sign up in the 34 states that declined to set up their own health-care exchanges. In a sign that HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius is worried about Obamacare, she transferred some 20 percent of the money for the “navigators” from programs earmarked for disease prevention.
The Navigators program is starting so late that thirteen Republican state attorneys general wrote Sebelius this week expressing concern about the program. Led by West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey the attorneys general said regulations on those hired to guide people through the health-care exchange are too vague, lack adequate privacy controls, and could allow personal data to be abused.
The White House dismissed the AG’s letter out of hand. “The point is it’s a little hard to take their criticism seriously considering their opposition to the law in the first place,” said spokesman Josh Earnest on Wednesday. Is that any way to respond to a set of concerns from a group of law-enforcement officials?
But the letter from the AG points out that “HHS recently announced that it may cut back on its previously announced and already scant training requirements due to time constraints. . . . HHS must take action to ensure that thorough and specific safeguards are put in place to protect the confidentiality of consumers’ data before enrollment begins.” Some states will conduct criminal-background checks on those navigators that are hired, but in other states the AG’s worry any background checks will be skipped or sloppy. That’s why several states are passing their own regulations demanding that navigators be properly trained and that precautions against Social Security and income data being abused are taken.
Buckle your seat belts, it looks like Obamacare’s opening weeks will be a wild ride.