Additionally, Wells’ dual role as Outreach Director for Heartland Community Health Center (HCHC) in Lawrence and as the sole Obamacare navigator for the City of Lawrence could represent a substantial conflict of interest.
The federal navigator program has taken great pains to avoid hiring navigators who are in a position to refer business to their place of employment, according to Katrina McGivern of the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved in Topeka, KS, the primary care association of Kansas and a federal navigator grantee in the state.
“Certified navigators are required to help any consumer who requires assistance in the community,” McGivern told The Daily Caller, “whether they are a patient of the specific facility or not. Navigators are not allowed to refer consumers to any specific location to receive care. They are allowed to educate on options in their area.”
McGivern also told TheDC that all navigators must sign a “conflict of interest statement.”
Despite McGivern’s assurances, there remain plenty of reasons for concern. On the website for HCHC, there is a prominently featured advertisement on top for the new Obamacare exchanges, and the link to find out more information leads to a page for Wells, which includes her biography and contact information.
All her navigator work is done out of her office in HCHC, and HCHC has been recognized by HHS as a “Federally Qualified Health Center,“ which qualifies HCHC for enhanced Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement and at-cost drug pricing.
Furthermore, according to its 2012 annual report, HCHC is a 2012 grant recipient from HHS for $650,000 in so-called “Community Health Center” funding. Obamacare has provided $11 billion for the expansion of “community health centers.”
Health centers are community-based organizations which generally serve indigent populations with limited or no access to traditional health care. With Obamacare providing either free or reduced health insurance to much of this population, community health centers stand to benefit financially from Obamacare.
According to a June 2012 press release, the Department of Health and Human Services considers “community health center” expansion a key component for success in Obamacare.
Repeated emails and phone calls to Ms. Wells were left unreturned. An HCHC spokesperson declined to comment for this report.
Update: An earlier version of this article described Wells’ job title simply as “navigator.” In fact, her technical title is “outreach and enrollment assister,” a job with the same responsibilities as a navigator but a different titular designation within the bureaucracy.
Update 10/17: In a statement sent to The Daily Caller Thursday, HCHC wrote that “[a]llegations that Ms. Wells owes State income taxes appear completely unsubstantiated. The Kansas Department of Revenue has no record of tax delinquency for Ms. Wells.” However, a background check report produced by People Smart shows a state tax warrant for $1746 filed 11/15/2010 under Wells’ name.
An HCHC spokeswoman did not clarify the discrepancy or whether the debt had been resolved.
Additionally, the HCHC statement confirmed that “[a] bench warrant for an unpaid medical debt was on record but Ms. Wells, unaware of the warrant until just days ago, has worked with the courts to satisfy the warrant. This warrant is no longer active.”