Skip to main content

Among the myriad tactics Republicans are using to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, the GOP attack on so-called Obamacare “navigators” is probably the most ironic. After all, the Bush administration similarly dispensed grants to dozens of community groups, hospitals, universities and non-profits to provide enrollment assistance for the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. And as it turns out, among those recipients of federal dollars from President Bush was—wait for it—ACORN.

Nevertheless, conservative agent provocateur James O’Keefe has added his guerrilla forces to the Republican campaign to discredit, damage and derail the navigator program. While the House GOP majority is investigating the navigators and demanding mountains of documentation to slow down their work, the National Journal reported two weeks ago, “whether by fees, background checks, tests, extra training, certifications, threats of civil penalties, or delays, Republican legislatures and officials in at least 17 states across the country have thrown up all manner of bureaucratic roadblocks in front of the program.” And now, the National Review’s John Fund is happy to announce, James O’Keefe has turned to the same covert action and disinformation techniques against the navigators he used to destroy ACORN.

The events of O’Keefe’s video of a Texas navigator site run by the National Urban League are a familiar sight to viewers of his past efforts exposing Medicaid and voter fraud. Government-paid workers supposedly trained to uphold the law advise clients on how to lie on government forms, evade legal requirements, and ignore proper procedures.
If the GOP effort to negate the navigators seems vicious and cynical, it should. When President Bush launched his unfunded $400 billion Medicare Part D prescription drug program in 2004, his administration didn't just spend millions of dollars on television advertising, just like the Obama Department of Health and Human and Services is doing now. As it turns, the Medicare drug benefit passed by Republican majorities in Congress similarly relied on "navigators" to get the word out and get American seniors signed up.

Read more about navigators below the fold.

In May 2004, the Bush administration announced it would be working with the Access to Benefits Coalition (ABC) to help roll out the Medicare drug discount card program that spring and enroll seniors in private prescription plans by 2006. "Seniors and persons with disabilities need to take advantage of the real savings and real money that is on the table for them," then-HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said. "Seniors with low incomes can save significantly through the discounts and the $1,200 to pay for their prescriptions. It's an opportunity they can't afford to pass up.:

To help in the enrollment effort, HHS is making an additional $4.6 million available to organize and fund community-based organizations to help low-income beneficiaries learn about the Medicare drug discount card program and how to enroll. These funds are in addition to the $21 million previously made available to the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs), which provide one-on-one assistance to Medicare beneficiaries through trained volunteer counselors who are provided training from CMS...

HHS and the Access to Benefits Coalition (ABC) also have committed to working together in a complementary fashion as they target low-income seniors with education and enrollment programs. And HHS' Administration on Aging (AoA) and Indian Health Service (IHS) are reaching out to their constituencies to make sure they sign up for the program.

"We have an energetic coalition from the public and private sectors that wants to make sure seniors take advantage of the substantive savings the Medicare-approved cards provide," Secretary Thompson said. "We want to be aggressive in reaching out to these beneficiaries so they don't miss out on this meaningful benefit to help pay for their medicines."

And just who were the members of the Access to Benefits Coalition?

Many were the usual suspects. AARP, which supported both Bush's Medicare Part D and Obama's Affordable Care Act, was one obvious partner. The "public-private partnership of over 70 diverse organizations dedicated to ensuring that lower income beneficiaries know about and can make optimal use of new Medicare prescription drug benefits" also included the National Hispanic Council on Aging, an organization which is also now an Obamacare navigator. The conservative 60 Plus Association, whose celebrity spokesman Pat Boone would later call Barack Obama "a president without a country" who is "waterboarding America" over "socialistic health care and a host of other ultraliberal causes," also received dollars from the Bush HHS.

Other Bush administration Medicare Rx partners in the ABC might seem a little more surprising. Take, for example, ACORN.

Regardless, then as now the White House understandably turned to dozens of charitable groups, health care groups, trade associations and lobbying groups to help with the outreach for its new Medicare drug program hoping to bring prescription coverage to 43 million American seniors.  Former Bush Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt acknowledged as much in his July 12 Washington Post op-ed, a screed which advised the Obama administration to learn from the launch of the Medicare drug program:

Before the program was implemented, only 21 percent of seniors had a favorable opinion of it, and 66 percent didn't understand what the reform would mean for them.

So we spent 18 months devising and implementing a campaign to explain the prescription drug benefit, prepare seniors as well as partners -- such as community groups, churches, pharmacies, insurance plans and state and local governments -- and then sign people up. A national bus tour supported each phase. The summer before enrollment (the same period that the ACA is in now) we logged more than 600,000 miles and visited 48 states. As secretary, I made 119 stops in 98 cities. I learned that with a program like the ACA, you can't count on Washington to sell it. You have to reach people where they live, work, pray and play.

The federal government has to “reach people where they live, work, pray and play” unless, Republicans now insist, a Democrat is in the White House.

UPDATE: The Urban League of Greater Dallas has fired one and suspended three other employees over the video incident.  Predictably, Texas Senator John Cornyn called for the suspension of the entire navigator program.

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 12:55 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  The fact that the Administration uses (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, nextstep, Pi Li

    navigators does not bother me at all.  And I think most people agree with me. In anything this complicated, I think most people would agree that the government needs to provide all kinds of resources for people to get what they need.

    If, however, navigators were encouraging people to lie about their income on the forms so as to get a subsidy, or so as to get a bigger subsidy (as whats-his-name claims), THAT would bother me.  That's what he supposedly has on tape.  We'll see if that part is true.  If THAT PART is true, that's problematic.

    I think most of American would agree with me.  All that stuff about which group is associated with which group and which group has ties to the navigators is just noise.  And this guy whats-his-name has already had his 15 minutes of fame, or infamy.  

    On the other hand, if navigators are encouraging people to lie on the forms, THAT'S a huge issue, no matter who uncovers it.  That kind of thing reinforces the conservative notion that people abuse, or even defraud, government programs.  Because that money comes out of the pockets of taxpayers, IF that has happened, people are going to be unhappy, regardless of who uncovered it.

    •  If the moon were made of green cheese (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stude Dude, Glenn45, TXdem, Dodgerdog1

      we could eat it.
      If the world was flat.
      If, if, if…


      Let's see - his track record sucks and you're waiting to see if he's gonna finally come through with a bit of truth?

      Where have you been all this time?

      Go ahead and - along with all the other right wingers.

      Meanwhile it's best not to smear the navigators based the bleating of a proven liar.

      And that's what your post is - left handed way of smearing the navigators.

      You know… IF you're a right wing troll then your posts are trash…


      •  I saw the tape. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It is not the bleating of a proven liar.

        It may the bleating of a shifty editor.

        It looks bad since it looks like government employees are encouraging fraud.  Ouch.

        In fact, the talking that the narrator does makes him look foolish-he is not lying (too much cheesy acting to even talk), just playing dress up and he and his friends have cowboy hats on and are playing sheriff.  

        O'Keefe would have been better to convince us that his tapes were authentic, certified by some neutral party instead of using the non footage time talking about how he was the new sheriff in town.

    •  plus (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Involuntary Exile

      The regulations may allow for applicants to estimate expenses that are deductible on taxes. For example child care expenses

      It makes sense to overestimate some of those expenses as the subsidies have a rolling component to them...

      The 1% make good faith estimates for tax purposes all the time. (I can just about guarantee that those estimates are in their favor not that of the tax man...)

      Its a bit hypocritical to make these claims  without looking at the whole context....

  •  Jon - the fact that Part D had "helpers" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    including ACORN is a non-issue. It is unfortunate that the GOP is hampering the navigators in their quest to help people access the ACA benefits by signing up on the exchanges. However, if it is true that navigators are encouraging people to lie on their forms this would be a devastating blow to the ACA, regardless of the source of the tapes.

    Has the video been made available to the public?

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 02:14:23 PM PST

    •  Completely Agree That the Allegations... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...must be investigated.  Lying and misinformation from any ACA navigator is indefensible.

      The larger point here is that the GOP has launched a multi-point campaign to demonize the very idea of ACA navigators.  The media has essentially accepted this as politics as normal.  It is not only unprecedented, but flies in the face of Republican policy when they controlled the White House during the rollout of Medicare Part D.

      My point is not to parse the accuracy of O'Keefe's claims.  (Others left and right will doubtless do that in great detail.) My point is to document that government support for outside community groups helping to launch federal benefits programs was, until very recently, a bipartisan strategy.

    •  NOT again - what a load (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I guess since you're repeating right wing talking points I get to repeat a post.

      If the moon were made of green cheese we could eat it.
      If the world was flat.
      If, if, if…


      Let's see - his track record sucks and you're waiting to see if he's gonna finally come through with a bit of truth?

      Where have you been all this time?

      Go ahead and - along with all the other right wingers.

      Meanwhile it's best not to smear the navigators based the bleating of a proven liar.

      And that's what your post is - left handed way of smearing the navigators.

      You know… IF you're a right wing troll then your posts are trash…


      •  Capt C - you should be more cautious with your (0+ / 0-)

        troll remarks. I have been here for seven years and written more than 30,000 comments. My body of work speaks for itself. You have been here less than a year.

        The last thing the beleaguered ACA program needs now are navigators who are encouraging people to lie on their registration forms. The people who are in the role of navigators need to have real expertise on the programs available in their state and must be of the highest character.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 10:12:10 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for the right wing talking point (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          That's exactly what Issa and the rest of the Republicans say.

          It's a scam - just like the hearings they have to "fix" the law. Total BS.

          And it's coming from you as well.

          That's the company you're keeping - no matter how long you've been here.

          Joe Lieberman started as a Democrat too.

          •  Given its scope and the mountain of regulations (0+ / 0-)

            needed to implement the ACA it isn't a surprise that it has flaws. I think what has surprised us all is how poorly the implementation, communication, and rollout have been executed. A fact isn't a right wing talking point, even if the wingers are using it for their political gain. I don't think we should bury our heads in the sand when the problems with the ACA are apparent and present real political risks to the Democrats in 2014.

            "let's talk about that"

            by VClib on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 08:07:28 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Jibberish (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              My post is all about how wrong it is to take anything seriously coming from O'Keefe.
              It's about how the "if there are corrupt navigators" is just another bull shit scam from the right.
              It's just like the bull shit Republican scams where they're claiming to try and fix the law when actually they're trying to gut it.

              You are parroting the right wing.

              A fact isn't a right wing talking point
              My post is about O'Keefe's bull shit video claiming to show corrupt navigators. Are you actually going to claim we should take O'Keefe seriously? Is that your fact?

              Or are you just going to continue rambling on with out even bothering to stay on track?

              All I can say is if you talk the right wing talk and walk the right wing walk then...

              •  The O'Keefe video should be viewed (0+ / 0-)

                by the management of the navigator program and the parties investigated. It should also be a reminder to communicate to the navigators they need to be vigilant in their communications with people who are enrolling that they respond honestly.

                The fact that the video was an O'Keefe production does not mean it can be ignored. It has the potential to do damage to the Democrats and the management of the ACA program needs to respond.

                "let's talk about that"

                by VClib on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 09:20:34 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Right wing talking points again (0+ / 0-)
                  The fact that the video was an O'Keefe production does not mean it can be ignored.

                  Completely backwards and wrong.

                  O'Keefe, and his lies, should be ignored. This latest video is less than a fart in the wind.

                  The Democrats and ACA should not fall for this pathetic sham.

                  You and Issa. Good company indeed.

  •  Right Wingers already making hay with this (0+ / 0-)

    I found out about this in a staff meeting at work when our Republican lobbyist mentioned emailing the video to legislators around the State, ostensibly to bolster our official position re Navigators.  Given the cartoons and videos that have been surreptitiously circulating around the office, I'm sure it also provided many opportunities to express gleeful outrage about Obamacare and liberals.

    Just what I freaking need.

    #ALEC Brand Legislation now with new whitening agents! Dont like the color of your electorate?Just add #VoterID! Now with more suppression! @FAKEALECPR

    by Bandaloop on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 08:44:56 PM PST

  •  Ronald Regan (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stude Dude

    They also forgot that Regan's first management experience was as a community organizer for the SAG, the actors union.  That his only real wife(marriage is between one man and one woman, not one man and one woman at a time, it is adam and eve, not adam and eve, then nancy) divorced him because he was putting his community organizing over the marriage.  

    Then, of course, is the fact that our current deficit problem is caused by the Bush tax cuts and the Bush jobs program, otherwise known as the christian crusades, and the drug abuse program for older people.  Just imagine where we would be in Clinton got universal health care and we were not looking at 30 years of paying for veteran benefits.

    •  veteran's benefits (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stude Dude

      aren't the big problem. It's those off-budget wars, with private contractors and mercenaries that are paid more than the military.

      (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

      by PJEvans on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 07:50:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  not saying cut benifits (0+ / 0-)

        But mercenaries and contractors are one time expenses.  On the other hand, our formal military get ongoing care and sometimes significant pensions.  For instance, VA entitlements have more than doubled since 2004.  I don't really think 40 billion is a concern, but conservatives are willing to let children starve to save less.  The overall budget for the VA, as documented on it's websites, has also more than doubled.  One line item, half a billion for medical research and prosthetic, is an increasing expense that is incurred when we send youngsters into unnecessary hostile situations.  Of course if we insist on fighting the crusades, we have to pay for the consequences.  But maybe we might choose not to fight the crusades.

  •  How is (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Capt Crunch, TXdem, madronagal, La Gitane

    that little shitweasel O'Keefe not in jail yet?

  •  A friend posted a link to this on FB today. . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a couple of things based on his track record. I don't trust him, his past performance has shown he has less than zero integrity when it comes to compiling a story.

    Now in the remotest case this is true.

    Guess what, lying about your income to get the subsidy will only bite you in the end, literally and figuratively.  come tax time the IRS will reconcile your actual income and what you claimed as your income. Watch your tax refund disappear before your eyes, as it is clawed back by the government.

    •  And most likely, all that's going on is that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NeverThere, Dodgerdog1

      navigators were trying to explain to people how to estimate their income, and explaining what will happen if you over-estimate and what will happen if you under-estimate.  And they may have been trying to reassure people that you don't have to have perfect knowledge of your future income, because it will get reconciled later.

  •  James O'Keefe. What a piece of work. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Just look at this guy. Anyone who would lend any credence to anything he's done would be correctly termed gullible. He is such an obvious fraudster and con man, I can't imagine why anyone is still paying him the slightest bit of attention.

  •  We know O'Keefe's track record, and we know (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    he'll be good at making something look like something awful is happening when nothing of the kind is happening.  I hope someone can get out a true analysis of O'Keefe's "expose" quickly.  

  •  It's simple--if you don't have your check stub, or (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a W2, you have to guess at your income.  And you will be advised to guess high or low, depending on how much you want to pay in the end come tax time.

    Again, it's one of those things that's a very simple concept, but it takes more than three words to explain, so no one is interested in the full explanation.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 09:12:16 PM PST

  •  That update is disappointing. The Urban League (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Glenn45, La Gitane, aitchdee, Dodgerdog1

    ought to know better than to take action against anyone on the basis of an O'Keefe video.  Whatever happened to, "Wait until all the facts are in?"

  •   Cronyn says friend experienced dropped call... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...proposes all wireless communications be suspended.

    Would the MSM notice or just scribe as usual?

    Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 01:20:07 AM PST

  •  You know, (0+ / 0-)

    The biggest difference between navigators and insurance brokers is how we get paid. They get salary, we work on commission. And insurance agents have always had fees, background checks, tests, extra training, certifications, and threats of civil penalties. Just sayin'.

    Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

    by Boundegar on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 05:11:30 AM PST

  •  It's all about results... (0+ / 0-)

    Using ACORN to enlist people in a program where your friends in the pharmaceutical industry get to sell them uncompetitively priced drugs?  GOOD

    Using ACORN to enlist people to become registered voters where they can vote for Democrats? BAD

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site