GOP’s Latest Obamacare Sabotage Ploy

n_maddow_1care_130725With the open enrollment  period for Obamacare Exchanges beginning on October 1, we’re starting to see local groups spring up to help folks navigate the system and get signed up for health insurance.  We actually heard something about this last Thursday night.  Neighbors helping neighbors get health care.  Sounds like a good thing, right?

So what is the GOP’s contribution to these efforts?  They are using their control of the US House of Representatives to harass these groups and make it harder for them to provide the help they’re trying to provide.  Jonathan Cohn has the scoop below.

Again, why would a decent person be willing to associate with that party?

Obamacare Sabotage: Read: These Documents Show What an Attempt to Sabotage Obamacare Looks Like

Republicans may have found a new way to undermine Obamacare: By harassing the organizations that are supposed to help people get health insurance.

Last week, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to at least some of the 105 organizations that, earlier this month, received federal grants to serve as “navigators” for Obamacare. Navigators are supposed to help educate people about their insurance options under the new law—by, for example, explaining who is eligible to buy insurance in the new exchanges, or how to use the online marketplaces once they are operating. In some cases, they will actually help people enroll in the new insurance plans. The model for the Navigator program is the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, or SHIP, which has operated successfully for more than 20 years as part of the Medicare program.

The organizations that got federal navigator grants are a mix of non-profit groups and government agencies—everybody from the Missouri Alliance of Area Agencies on Aging to the Utah AIDS Foundation. Planned Parenthood chapters in Iowa, Montana, and New Hampshire are among those getting grants. But so are several religious organizations, including the Oak Hill Missionary Baptist Church Ministries in Mississippi. The organizations that got the five largest grants were all in states with high numbers of uninsured people—Texas, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and Michigan. (The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has a full list of the organizations, and Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News has more background on them, if you want more information.)

With the new insurance marketplaces set to open in exactly four weeks, these organizations are scrambling to get ready in time. But now, thanks to the House Republicans, they’re also scrambling to answer a committee request for information. “In order to better understand the work you will perform,” the letter states, the Committee is asking the organizations to schedule a briefing “to occur no later than September 13”—and to answer six lengthy questions about their operations.

Requests for documents is not unprecedented; the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of Energy and Commerce did it all the time under Democrats. But this is qualitatively different. The scope and the timing simply smell. Oversight would commonly mean that after a program has been implemented you look to see if it was done well and if there was fraud or malfeasance or misfeasance. This is intimidation and another effort at sabotage.

Committee spokepersons didn’t respond to media requests over the weekend. If they do, I’ll update this item. But keep in mind that the navigators’ primary job is to boost enrollment in Obamacare, a goal Republicans and their allies have made clear they don’t share. On the contrary, Republicans and conservatives have actually tried to stymie or at least limit enrollment—by warning professional sports leagues not to promote the new insurance options, for example, and encouraging young people not to sign up. (Sandhya Somashekhar documented some of the latest efforts, at the state level, in the Washington Post last week.) And while sometimes these efforts are subtle, sometimes they aren’t. During a recent, Ralph Hudgens, the state insurance commissioner of Georgia, told his fellow Republicans how he and his counterparts in Georgia’s state government were treating Obamacare. “Let me tell what we’re doing,” Hudgens said. “Everything in our power to be an obstructionist.”

Is it possible House Republicans are simply performing due diligence, in order to make sure people who need Obamacare’s help can get it? Sure. But it doesn’t seem very likely.