Administration Unable to Assuage Committee Concerns on Health Law’s Readiness, Navigator Program Security

September 19, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – Less than two weeks before the health law’s open enrollment is scheduled to begin, Director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight Gary Cohen today testified before the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. Members asked Cohen about the administration’s preparedness for the October 1 launch and the functionality of the health care law’s Navigator program.

“Today, we will ask Mr. Gary Cohen, the Director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, to explain how the abbreviated training schedule for Navigators will affect the program,” said Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA). “We will also ask Mr. Cohen to address some of the concerns we have identified in our review of the grant applications…Our responsibility in conducing oversight of federal programs is to identify waste, fraud, and abuse. In the best case, asking questions about federal spending and shining a light on programs can identify problems before taxpayer dollars are wasted – and allow these programs to be corrected. A ‘wait and see’ approach to oversight of the health care reform law does not seem appropriate when its implementation has been regularly botched by delays and uncertainty.”

In late August, members of the subcommittee sent letters to 51 Navigator grant recipients regarding their intended use of taxpayer dollars, plans for assisting the American people with enrolling in the health care law, and assurances against fraud and security risks. Despite the program being delayed several months and being millions of dollars over budget, the law’s supporters objected to the committee’s simple questions. Cohen today joined the chorus assailing the investigation calling it, “utterly without foundation.” However, when asked about specific grant applications and recipients, Cohen was unfamiliar with the applications and unable to assure members about the functionality of this program.

“In April, Mr. Cohen testified that everything was ‘on track’ – but ‘on track’ to what? Just weeks after his testimony, the administration delayed the employer mandate and rolled back the verification process, opening us up for potentially billions of dollars in fraud,” said full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “With less than two weeks until launch, it is time for the administration to be frank with the American people.”

During his testimony, Cohen was unable to assure members that the law would be completely ready for its scheduled October 1 start of open enrollment. Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Vice Chairman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX) posed a series of questions, including a number regarding the administration’s readiness on October 1 and January 1. 

Watch the exchange here:

The Energy and Commerce Committee continues its thoughtful oversight as new revelations continue to make clear that the Navigator program, like most of the health care law, is not ready for prime-time on October 1.

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