Many questions have been raised about the Obamacare "navigators,” volunteers tasked with guiding consumers through the insurance enrollment process, and a troubling new report would seem to prove correct those who’ve voiced doubts about the program.
In New Mexico, for instance, one in seven navigators can be found in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC), National Review Online reported, citing public records.
“In total, 38 health-care guides or certified application counselors received their certification despite a match, according to records from the New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance (OSI), which certifies navigators working with the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange,” the report notes.
Now, it’s important to note that someone’s name showing up in the NCIC database doesn’t necessarily mean they've been convicted of a crime. The database includes arrest records and cases that were either acquitted or thrown out, according to the FBI.
The NCIC database is merely “a tool for finding out if there may be an issue. It’s not a tool for knowing that there is one,” Aaron Ezekiel, the OSI’s director of Affordable Care Act Implementation Projects, told NRO.
But although the database doesn’t say which of the New Mexico Obamacare navigators had been convicted of a crime, the fact that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted recently that it’s “possible” for felons to operate in the program should raise some concerns.
After all, navigators will have complete access to consumers’ sensitive and private health and financial information.
And then there are the crimes themselves.
“Certified New Mexico navigators had been charged with crimes including: eight domestic-violence charges, including aggravated battery and aggravated assault of a household member; four drug charges; two larceny charges; one petty-theft charge; one shoplifting charge; and two child-abuse charges,” according to the NRO report. “There were also several driving-related charges, including DWIs, DUIs, and speeding or traffic crimes. In at least two instances, navigators had traffic charges for lacking insurance.”
A spokesperson for the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange would not say which organization employs the navigators with entries in the NCIC database.
New Mexico health exchange spokeswoman Debra Hammer defends the program: “We definitely believe in second chances, and people have a right to be gainfully employed.”
The 38 navigators “are no longer in adjudication,” she added. “Their employers also do background checks, and these are past crimes that they have paid their dues on.”
But others see it differently.
“People who commit child abuse [or] domestic violence may not always be the best people to provide assistance to others who are vulnerable,” said Pam Wiseman, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “These are not minor crimes, and they need to be scrutinized carefully.”
It’s important to remember that New Mexico has a much more extensive process for reviewing Obamacare navigators than most states, meaning the problems uncovered by NRO could be far worse in states with laxer practices.
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