House Committee Investigates Role of Worker Centers in ObamaCare Enrollment

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) today asked the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide information concerning the role of worker centers in implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The request is part of an ongoing Committee effort examining the activities of worker centers.

Kline and Roe state in a press release to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce:

“Every day we learn more disturbing facts about the train wreck that is the president’s health care law,” said Reps. Kline and Roe. “A fundamentally flawed law and its botched implementation has led to glitches, dropped coverage, and loss of work. Now we’re learning a broken website could put individuals’ sensitive information in jeopardy – and this isn’t the only risk to personal privacy. Right now navigators with strong ties to labor unions are collecting sensitive information with questionable safeguards. Congress has a responsibility to ensure individuals’ privacy is protected and contact with an ObamaCare navigator doesn’t lead to a phone call from union organizers.”

BACKGROUND: To facilitate enrollment in health benefit exchanges, PPACA provides taxpayer-funded grants to navigators. The law defines navigators as entities with a relationship or that could readily establish a relationship with employers, employees, and self-employed individuals. In a rush to implement the law, the Obama administration cut in half the training of navigators, raising concerns about individuals’ personal privacy.

A recent press report revealed two worker centers received navigator grants. Worker centers are generally community-based organizations that advocate on behalf of workers, and some have taken direct action to alter conditions of employment and organize employees. In July the committee began examining worker centers to ensure they are properly following federal labor laws. Due to the close association of worker centers with labor unions, the committee wants to ensure personal information collected by worker centers is protected and not used for future labor organizing efforts.

Among other items, the members ask HHS to provide:

  1. A list that identifies each non-profit organization incorporated under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code that has applied or received a PPACA grant to serve as a navigator;
  2. The grant application for each non-profit incorporated under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code that has applied for a PPACA grant to serve as a navigator;
  3. All documents and communications provided to navigators relating to their duties, responsibilities, and limitations as navigators;
  4. All documents and communications relating to the policing and training of navigators, including ensuring fair, accurate, and impartial information; and
  5. All documents and communications relating to policing and training of navigators and procedures to protect the privacy of information collected from individuals and employers.

Reps. Kline and Roe request a response by November 18, 2013.

To read the full PDF of Kline and Roe’s letter to the Committee , see http://edworkforce.house.gov/uploadedfiles/11-01-13-hhs-worker_centers.pdf.

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