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President Barack Obama listens to comments while meeting with healthcare stakeholders in the Roosevelt Room at White House May 11, 2009. At right is Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
No end to the headaches the GOP can cause.
The Republican House Energy and Commerce Committee made news last week by putting a big stick into the spokes of Obamacare implementation. Community organizations (churches, foodbanks, health clinics) were very recently given federal grants to hire "navigators," guides to the health insurance exchanges to assist the clients of these groups. Before they could even really start hiring, a select number of groups in the states that have the highest uninsured populations were served with a letter from the committee demanding all sorts of answers to questions many can't begin to answer yet. The committee says its intent is to protect the privacy of the clients looking for help. Everyone else, including the White House, calls it intimidation and bullying.

Now the administration is fighting back, the only way it really can, by answering all of the committee's stupid questions on behalf of the community groups, and demanding that the committee call off the dogs.

“We are concerned about the timing of your inquiry given its potential to interfere with the Navigators ability to carry out their crucial efforts in assisting Americans who lack health insurance,” Jim Esquea, assistant secretary for legislaton at HHS, writes in a response to Congress.

“In an effort to address your remaining questions about the Navigator Program and enable the Navigators to focus on training staff to begin to assist uninsured Americans, we are providing the following responses to the questions posed in your letter to awardees.”

Esquea pointedly reminds the committee that that the administration has already provided "detailed information concerning the Navigator grant process, includingi nformation about grant funding and grant award criteria," as well as providing the committee with "direct access to the same Web-based training that is being used by Navigator grant awardees," in addition to the other briefings the've provided to committee staff. That should give the committee everything they could possibly hope to know at this point, but it probably won't. Because they're not after information. They're after crippling Obamacare, and they've found an effective way to do it.

The navigator program is already under the gun to get people hired, and as of right now, the guides are in short supply. The grants for hiring were awarded just a few weeks ago, and the timeframe from the money being awarded to the guides being hired and trained is exceedingly tight. So tight, in fact, that many of the groups haven't hired anyone yet (and thus don't even have the answers yet to many of the committee's questions). So this is a perfect time for the saboteurs in the GOP House to strike. If they can seriously muck up the works, they can make the Oct. 1 launch date for the exchanges very chaotic in the places where it needs to work the most.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Mon Sep 09, 2013 at 10:44 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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