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Navigating without a Moral Compass

The fact that paying for one’s health has become such a complicated process that it requires the assistance of a hand-holding community organizer is one sign of trouble. Job creation is all the rage, such that complicating things to the point of making busywork for more, so they can pass paper money around, is viewed by legislators as better for the economy than facilitating thriving, vibrant communities. But we get ahead of ourselves.

Pisgah Legal Services and the County on Aging were subrecipients of a $1,988,428 federal grant that went to North Carolina Community Care Networks, Inc. The grant itself was but one disbursement of $67 million that went out to states by way of the Cooperative Agreement to Support Navigators in Federally Facilitated and State Partnership Exchanges last August. Other recipients across the nation included the National Urban League and Planned Parenthood.

Kitty Schaller, a trained and certified ACA navigator working with PLS, wanted to put a face on the problem. She told the commissioners of a nurse who, while laid up with a bad back, wanted to get her master’s degree. She had a 21-year-old son who was disabled. “She was smart, but she couldn’t navigate [the system] by herself.” Shaller worked with her 2.5 hours in one visit, and then some more in a second, and eventually landed on a plan that cost only $100/month for her and her son. She then told of a widower employed in a small business. “Panic and fear streaked across his face,” until she found him a $60/month plan.

Jim Barrett, the executive director of PLS spoke of a push to educate those who remain uninsured in Buncombe County. To support his claim, he argued, “Surveys show that many of the uninsured do not know that health insurance premiums are subsidized with advanced tax credits or that people who do not buy insurance by February 15 will have to pay tax penalties for two years.” Did you catch that? Education means learning it is better to take from the government than to give.

What’s more, Barrett said an Appalachian State economist concluded eleven jobs were created for every thousand citizens navigators assist with purchasing insurance. Since 20,000 in the county remain uninsured, he told the commissioners continuing to fund the navigators could create over 200 jobs. With that kind of returns, he suggested the county might search its economic development funds to loosen up the necessary dollars.

Yet navigators themselves are not paid. Perhaps the most famous local navigator is Terry Van Duyn. Her contributions to local candidates and participation and arrest in the Moral Monday protests worked with her navigation experience toward her selection by local Democrats as successor to the late State Senator Martin Nesbitt. In a recent campaign letter, she promised to, among other things, continue Nesbitt’s legacy of “fighting for healthcare.”

Nationwide, navigators got a bad rap when paid a visit by videojournalist James O’Keefe, the same guy who went undercover to film embarrassingly dangerous responses from workers at ACORN, Medicaid, and Planned Parenthood, and higher-ups at NPR. O’Keefe showed navigators and recruiters encouraging clientele to lie on their applications and claiming, for example, they were working with the DNC to “turn Texas blue.”

The video is credited with raising the bar for qualifying navigators. According to Jim Carrillon of PLS, navigators in Buncombe County must, among other requirements, complete 20 hours of online training, pass a test, and be free of ties to the insurance industry that could pose conflicts of interest. No criminal background check is required, and that concerns people worried about the personal information to which the navigators will have access.

Last year, the National Review tried to make something out of one in seven navigators in New Mexico having an FBI record. Then, Reuters published, “as many as 43 convicted criminals were working as Obamacare navigators in California,” and, “Obamacare navigators were enrolling clients at Mexican consulates nationwide, including Mexican nationals.” To this, thirteen attorneys general begged then HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to make screening requirements for navigators at least as tight as they are for other federally-funded positions.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee also sent letters to several recipients of the HHS funds asking how they would qualify navigators and spend their grants. Spokespeople for the HHS referred to this as “a blatant and shameful attempt to intimidate groups” Barrett described as, “populations that disproportionately lack health insurance: rural folks, African-Americans, people who speak English as a second language or not at all.”

It should be noted that this is not a problem unique to the Democrat Party. The concept of navigators originated in 1990, when the Bush 41 administration hired people with the same job title to recruit seniors for Medicare Part D, an unfunded $700 billion program.

There are many morals to the story, one of which leaves me wondering if, in the course of human events, it has become necessary to dissolve certain political bands connecting the people to their government, so the little guys might do something old-fashioned, like “assuming among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.”

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