Members Continue Investigation into Health Law’s Navigator Grants to Protect Taxpayer Dollars and Americans’ Sensitive Personal Information

September 23, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – Continuing its oversight of the $67 million Navigator grant program, House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders sent a letter to Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight Director Gary Cohen regarding questions and concerns raised during last week’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing. Despite being charged with the health law’s implementation, Cohen testified that he had never before seen the approved applications, one reason he was unable to provide sufficient responses to questions raised.

In August, the committee sent letters to several dozen Navigator groups in an effort to better understand how the groups planned to use their grants to assist in implementing the president’s health care law and how they would protect sensitive consumer information. The investigation into the program revealed that some approved applications included door-to-door activity, Navigator payment based on number of individuals enrolled, the use of gift cards, and robo calls.

The committee leaders write, “The questions and concerns that emerged from our review appear to be a direct result of the rushed implementation of the Navigator program by HHS and the limited time available for training Navigator grant recipient organizations and their staff… Although you acknowledged that your office is responsible for overseeing the Navigator program, you explained that you had not reviewed the individual grant applications and therefore could not comment on the individual Navigators’ planned enrollment activities.”

In his opening testimony, Cohen was quick to join the administration’s allies in assailing the committee’s oversight, calling the effort “utterly without foundation” - harsh criticism despite the fact he had never reviewed any of the Navigator groups’ applications, which in themselves reveal questionable planned activities. Cohen testified that HHS planned to issue guidance to the groups, but the members write, “the fact that this guidance has not yet been issued leaves Navigator grant recipients without the clear instruction they would need.” The exchanges are scheduled to open for enrollment in eight days, at which point Navigator groups will begin working with consumers to guide them through the process of enrollment.

“The mad rush to implement the health care law has raised countless red flags about the administration’s ability and commitment to ensuring the security of consumers’ health and financial information,” said Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA). “Thoughtful and thorough oversight is essential, particularly as rampant delays and cut corners make it increasingly apparent that the administration is ill prepared for next week’s launch.”

In addition to Murphy, the letters were signed by full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton (R-TX), Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts, (R-PA), Vice Chairman of the Health and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittees Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), and every Republican member of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

Read the complete letter online here.

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