"Sabotage." "Intimidation." Or, what the Republican House of Representatives is doing instead of its job. They haven't been able to repeal Obamacare, so they're going to be dead-set on sabotaging it, with an assist from Republican state officials
. As I wrote Monday, Republicans nationally and at the state level have homed in on one key program for the run-up to the law's implementation: the "navigators" who are working for community groups to spread the word and help would-be new insurance customers navigate the new system.
Around the country, Republican legislatures and insurance officials are erecting as many barriers as they can to the navigators doing their job. In D.C., the Republican House has tossed in a big monkey wrench with a brand-new, burdensome, and intrusive "investigation," demanding that the organizations sponsoring these navigators stop everything (four weeks before Obamacare launches) to answer six lengthy questions about their operations by September 13. Jonathon Cohn reviews the records request, and uses one example to show just how intrusive and extensive the information they are demanding is:
Provide all documentation and communications to related to your Navigator grant. This would include, but is not limited to, materials your organization submitted in order to obtain the grant, materials provided to your organization upon obtaining the grant, and communications between your organization and representatives from HHS, CMS, CCIIO [the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight] or any other federal or state entity. This request also includes, but is not limited to, any documents provided by (or communications with), representatives from HHS, CMS, CCIIO, Enroll America, or any other entity including federal or state governments discussing individuals to target or solicit for enrollment under the PPACA including discussions or documents related to geographic area.
Just gathering up all that information will take a staff person a week, a week that is critical to getting up to speed to start helping people on October 1. In regards to this one question, law professor Tim Josh told Cohn via email that the committee knows very well the burden that their demands will make. "This is not about gathering information. It is about trying to stop a program," he says. The American Enterprise Institute's Norm Ornstein agrees, in another email to Cohn:
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.
Of course this isn't about oversight and making sure that the law works for people. Republicans have done everything in their power to prevent even the most minor fixes to the law. They don't want to improve it. They don't want to make it work. They want to hobble it to the point that it's so weak that they can kill it. The best way to do that is to keep people from signing up, and the best way to do that is keep the people who will sign them up from doing that job.