By Barnini Chakraborty, ,
Published January 12, 2017
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted Wednesday that it was possible convicted felons could be hired as ObamaCare ‘navigators,’ giving them access to personal information like Social Security numbers and addresses of anyone signing up for the program.
Sebelius made the admission in an exchange with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas., during a Senate Finance Committee hearing. It was the second time in a week Sebelius was on Capitol Hill, forced to defend the problem-plagued ObamaCare website.
“Isn’t it true that there is no federal requirement for navigators to undergo a criminal background check,” Cornyn asked her.
“That is true,” Sebelius answered. “States could add in additional background checks and other features, but it is not part of the federal requirement.”
Cornyn pressed, “So a convicted felon could be a navigator and could acquire sensitive personal information from an individual unbeknownst to them?”
Sebelius answered, “This is possible.”
The nearly three-hour hearing had Sebelius once again shouldering much of the blame for the rocky rollout of the ACA, commonly referred to as ObamaCare. Last week she testified before a House panel on the growing concerns about President Obama’s landmark legislation.
On Wednesday, Sebelius also acknowledged that the early enrollment figures for ObamaCare scheduled to be released next week will be “very low.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, demanded monthly progress reports from her.
“No more excuses,” Hatch told her. “No more spin, just give us the truth.”
During her opening statement Sebelius said, “a number of fixes have already been completed” to the glitch-ridden website HealthCare.gov.
“Two weeks ago, the tech team put into place enhanced monitoring tools for HealthCare.gov, enabling us to get a high-level picture of the marketplace application responding, and to measure how changes improve user experience on the site.”
On the panel is Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who was one of the architects of the 2010 law.
Until now, Baucus has been a very vocal supporter of the Affordable Care Act, but even he has had his share of doubt in recent days over the HealthCare.gov site.
Specifically, Baucus has a problem with security testing of the site that could potentially expose millions of Americans to cyberfraud or identity theft.
Documents have surfaced that seem to indicate Obama administration officials cut corners on security testing while rushing to meet a self-imposed Oct. 1 deadline to launch online health insurance markets.
The administration has been struggling in recent days to knock back a wave of criticism that has been mounting since the rollout.
While the White House has promised the site would be up and glitch-free by Nov. 30, Baucus challenged Sebelius to beat the deadline.
“You said recently that you expect the website to be running smoothly for a majority of users by late November,” he said. “There is no room for error. You must meet -- and I prefer you beat -- that deadline.”
The last time Sebelius testified before a House committee, she fell on the sword, personally apologizing for the failures.
“Hold me accountable for the debacle,” she said. “I’m responsible.”