The administration's “mismanagement” of the Obamacare navigator program has exposed millions of Americans to the possibility of fraud and poses a serious risk to consumers’ personal information, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee concluded in a report released Monday.
In addition to the navigator problems cited by the committee, a confidential navigator training manual has been made publicly available online. Considering that the each page of the document has the line, "INFORMATION NOT RELEASABLE TO THE PUBLIC UNLESS AUTHORIZED BY LAW" posted at the bottom, the public availability of the training manual only raises further questions about the security of the troubled navigator program.
The House committee warned in September that the navigator program, which was created to help consumers get through the process of enrolling in the online health care exchanges, could expose Americans to rampant fraud.
Now, Department of Health and Human Services “documents call into question the effectiveness of these outreach programs, and, more importantly, the Administration’s ability to safeguard consumer information,” Monday's report said.
It takes the September warning a step further, concluding that HHS has put Americans at risk by failing to establish a contingency plan for the navigator program in the event that healthcare.gov crashed – which it did, multiple times.
“HHS’s mismanagement of the Navigator and Assister programs induces fraudulent behavior and poses real threats to the safety of consumers’ personally identifiable information, such as ones social security number, yearly income and other sensitive tax information,” the House report reads.
The report blames a "lack of background checks" and "inadequate training standards, and weak Administration oversight plan for Navigators and Assisters" for the program's many shortcomings
The House cites recent claims that some navigators have been encouraging consumers to submit fraudulent personal information, adding that certain navigators have also reportedly been handing out false information.
“Navigators gave consumers incorrect information about the enrollment process; some Navigators went so far as to encourage consumers to commit tax fraud by underreporting income in order to qualify for ObamaCare’s health insurance subsidies,” the report reads.
“Some Navigators assisted applicants before completing their 5 to 20 hour online training course, and others took custody of paper applications and mailed them for the applicant, violating the rule that applicants must mail in the application themselves.”
The lack of clear guidelines for Obamacare navigators, who don’t have to go through federal background check, in the event of a failed website left millions of Americans open to the risk of “identity theft due to confusion surrounding enrollment for health exchanges,” the House committee said Monday.
And as for that confidential training manual: The document "does not seem to contain sensitive information or secrets even though it is labeled confidential," Capital City Project reported.
"While nothing within the manual seems to be out of the ordinary or raise eyebrows, it contains parts instructing Navigators how to interact with people they speak with," the report adds. "It also includes sections on 'Identifying Personally Identifiable Information,' 'IRS Data Safeguards' and 'Preventing Fraud.'"
Read the full report, which is based on briefings the committee had with top Obama administration officials, including Gary Cohen (the director in charge of the agency responsible for the navigator program), here:
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This post has been updated.