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ObamaCare's 'navigator' program ripe for disaster

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We already know ObamaCare is a poorly conceived law that is unworkable in the real world. We know the law is already driving health care premiums through the roof contrary to what President Obama promised. For instance, in my home state, our largest health insurance provider reported recently that health care premiums could go up by more than 200 percent on some customers, and the average increase could be almost 30 percent according to one study.

We also know that implementation of the law has been a disaster so far. The Obama administration made the decision last month to delay the penalty provisions in the bill on employers for another year. So the boss gets spared, but no such luck for the working stiff.

This action is an acknowledgement from the administration that the law is not ready for primetime. Worse, the delay is going to increase the cost of the already too expensive bill by $12 billion. And there are clearly political motivations behind the delay as moving the tax on employers beyond the 2014 elections removes a burden on Democrats running to defend this terrible piece of legislation.

ObamaCare is just not ready for primetime, and there is something more than a little odd about using taxpayer money for a marketing campaign aimed at taxpayers

The writing is already on the wall -- the entire ObamaCare law needs to be repealed.

But wait, as they say in the infomercials, there’s more! By August 15, the Obama administration is expected to spend $54 million of our tax dollars to hire community organizers to push this law on the American people. The president was once a self-professed community organizer, so perhaps this is his way of “giving back” as they say.

Here is how it is supposed to work.

Over the next few weeks, the Obama administration is set to dole out grants and begin to hire thousands of marketers to help sell ObamaCare. The Obama administration came up with a clever name for these marketers – ‘navigators’ – who are charged with helping to sign people up for ObamaCare.

‘Navigator’ is a crafty name, but in reality, there are very few restrictions on who they are, and what exactly they are supposed to be doing. ‘Navigators’ are supposed to be hired to help consumers understand the law and the insurance coverage provisions in the new health exchanges. Sounds like a job for a rocket scientist.

The ‘navigators’ are prohibited from having financial ties to an insurance company, but other than that there are few constraints. Union organizers and community activists are among the types that are allowed to be hired as ‘navigators’, and having prior experience working in the health care field doesn’t seem to necessarily be a pre-requisite for the job. I wonder what percentage of these ‘navigators’ will be partisan Democrats?

The ‘navigators’ will be required to take only 20 hours of online course training, which will apparently make them experts on the 1,000 page ObamaCare bill. An HHS official was even quoted this week saying, “We view training as an ongoing process.” Count me as skeptical.

To make matters worse, these ‘navigators’ are going to have access to all kinds of personal information that will make the whole program ripe for fraud. 

When helping individuals sign up for ObamaCare, these community organizers will have access to sensitive personal information, including social security numbers and tax information.

Amazingly, HHS is not planning on requiring background checks on these individuals before putting them to work. Besides the obvious identity theft concerns, this is a frightening development in light of the political activities and invasion of privacy, which the IRS and others have engaged in during the Obama presidency.

But the biggest problem with the ‘navigator’ program is it appears the federal government still doesn’t have the complete means to verify if an individual is even eligible for exchange insurance subsidies. 

Coupled with the delay of the employer mandate, there is little way to know if a person has access to affordable insurance through their employer, making them ineligible for subsidies. This makes the system open for fraud and abuse. ObamaCare is now on the honor system.

Beyond the serious implications for taxpayers that thousands could be signing up to receive taxpayer subsidies who are not eligible, this is problematic for consumers who could be forced to pay back money if they mistakenly sign up for ObamaCare, along with the potential for fines.

You could not make this stuff up. No one would believe it. I’m not sure I believe it.

In Louisiana, I signed a law to ensure that felons and ex-cons are not the ones who will be in charge of the ‘navigator’ program and have access to all this sensitive personal data. This is a step in the right direction and some other states have passed similar legislation, but running the ‘navigator’ program without a proven means to verify if a person is eligible for ObamaCare has the potential for disaster.

Like he did with the delay of the employer mandate, the president needs to halt these lucrative grants to the ‘navigator’ program immediately. 

ObamaCare is just not ready for primetime, and there is something more than a little odd about using taxpayer money for a marketing campaign aimed at taxpayers. The troubling details of the navigator program provide just another example of the poor planning and implementation of ObamaCare and shows why the law must be repealed.

Republican Bobby Jindal is Governor of Louisiana and Honorary Chairman of America Next, a conservative policy group that focuses on winning the war of ideas.