By Sandy Fitzgerald
Gov. Rick Perry is defending Texas‘s decision to strengthen qualification requirements for Obamacare navigators, saying it’s not the state’s fault that President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare program has so many problems.
“Obamacare offers virtually no protection for consumers shopping for health coverage through these so-called navigators,” the Republican governor wrote in an scathing op-ed piece that appeared Thursday in The Austin American-Statesman.
The former GOP 2012 presidential candidate, and possible 2016 candidate, also took Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to task for suggesting that Obamacare enrollment would be going a lot smoother if “it weren’t for all those pesky Texans getting in the way,” as the governor put it.
The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) is implementing “commonsense” rules for navigators who “probe Texans for their most personal and private information in the name of signing consumers up for Obamacare,” Perry wrote. “These rules are especially important given the minimal federal requirements navigators must meet.”
The rules include basic measures like criminal background checks, Perry said, to help protect Texans.
“Secretary Sebelius herself admitted federal navigators underwent no background check at all and could, in fact, be felons,” he continued. “TDI’s rules will help ensure felons, including convicted sex offenders, are not knocking on Texans’ doors under the guise of signing them up for insurance, and that Texans aren’t giving out their most private and sensitive information to someone already convicted of fraud or identity theft.”
Further, Perry noted that even though Sebelius has “bragged” that navigators get 20 hours of training, “it hasn’t prevented fraud documented in published videos showing navigators — who have already completed Secretary Sebelius’ training — encouraging applicants to lie about their income and misstate their smoking habits in order to snare higher subsidies and lower premiums at taxpayer expense.”
A new report by the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also points out the need for overseeing the navigators, he added. The report shows instances in which he said “navigators openly encouraged applicants to commit tax fraud to obtain subsidies they otherwise are not qualified to receive.”
But consumers are still at risk even if they don’t use navigators, the governor said, noting “security flaws” in the Healthcare.gov website that been “widely reported.”
“Clearly, Texas’ concerns about this program are well-founded,” he added.
Perry went on to describe Obamacare as “a colossal disaster and getting worse.”
“Until the Obama administration places the privacy and protection of American consumers above political pushback, Texas will hold the line on protecting our citizens,” Perry declared.
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