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Department of Health and Human Services sued for Obamacare navigator records

Affordable Care Act navigator Nini Hadwen (R) speaks with Jorge Hernandez (L) and Marta Aguirre as they shop for health insurance
Affordable Care Act navigator Nini Hadwen (R) speaks with Jorge Hernandez (L) and Marta Aguirre as they shop for health insurance(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch announced on Tuesday that on March 27, 2014, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to obtain records about Obamacare navigators, including records about navigator qualifications and background checks.

The announcement was sent to the media through email communications that HHS reportedly has hired 50,000 navigators to assist applicants enrolling in Obamacare health care plan at a cost of $67 million to taxpayers and that many of those navigators have questionable backgrounds, including enrolling clients at Mexican Consulates nationwide, including Mexican nationals.

Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch said that based upon its November 8, 2013, FOIA request, they are seeking any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to contracts awarded to private entities to provide navigators to assist individuals obtaining health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Judicial Watch is also asking for any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to federal requirements for the above-mentioned navigators, including but not limited to background checks and qualifications.

Judicial Watch referred to a November 11, 2013 article that appeared in the National Review Online that outlined that the organizations providing Obamacare navigators were Local 100 United Labor Unions, a New Orleans group run by ACORN founder Wade Rathke.

The National Review Online article reported that Local 100 is a “sub-grantee” providing navigators for the Southern United Neighborhoods group, which received a $600,678 grant to promote Obamacare enrollment. It also received a $270,193 grant for similar work in Arkansas and a $486,123 grant for Louisiana.” Other organizations include the National Urban League, which was paid $376,000 for its Obamacare outreach in Texas, as well as such left-wing groups as Planned Parenthood and the Virginia Poverty Law Center Inc.

Fitton said, “Serious questions have also been raised about the requirements to be an Obamacare navigator and the screening given to those who are hired.”

At a November 6, 2013, Senate Finance Committee hearing, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted to Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) that the federal government conducts no background checks on Obamacare navigators, and it was “possible” that they could be convicted criminals.

During that exchange, Senator John Cornyn asked Sebelius, “So I want to ask you about the navigators … Isn’t it true that there is no federal requirement for navigators to undergo a criminal background check, even though they will receive sensitive personal information from the individuals they help to sign-up up for the Affordable Care Act?”

Sebelius replied, “That is true.” And when Cornyn asked that if a convicted felon could be a navigator and could acquire sensitive personal information from an individual unbeknownst to them, Sebelius replied and said, “That is possible.”

In August 2013, thirteen state attorneys general warned Sebelius that training and safeguards in place for the navigators appeared to be inadequate. In a letter to the HHS secretary, they wrote that the background check system “pales in comparison” to what is typically required for workers in programs receiving federal health dollars, adding “It is not enough simply to adopt vague policies against fraud.”

In January 2014, the National Review reported that as many as 43 convicted criminals were working as Obamacare navigators in California and in March, Breitbart reported that Obamacare navigators were enrolling clients at Mexican Consulates nationwide, including Mexican nationals.

“The Obamacare navigator program seems as corrupt as any Chicago patronage operation and is a danger to the privacy of millions of Americans who are participating in Obamacare,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

“The use of Obamacare navigators and the Healthcare.gov web site should come with consumer warnings. The Obama administration’s illegal secrecy about these Obamacare navigators should make Americans very nervous.”

Judicial Watch presently has another pending another FOIA lawsuit over security concerns about the Obamacare healthcare.gov web portal.