The Obama administration will spend another $60 million on Obamacare navigators during the 2015 enrollment period, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Tuesday.
“Navigators have been an important resource for the millions of Americans who enrolled in coverage in 2014,” CMS chief Marilyn Tavenner said in a statement. “This funding ensures this work will continue next year, including during the open enrollment period for the Marketplaces.”
The federal government spent $67 million on grants to organizations supporting navigators during the first enrollment period, which saw 8 million Americans apply for coverage.
Obamacare navigators are non-government employees who help potential customers go through the process of signing up for health-care coverage. A list of controversial organizations have served as Obamacare navigators during the first enrollment period, including Planned Parenthood.
One California company, the East Los Angeles Community Union — which received $980,000 from California’s Obamacare exchange to provide navigator services — reportedly offered several San Bernadino city councilors a bribe several years earlier. (RELATED: California Obamacare navigator has sordid past)
On top of questions about the organizations receiving grants to train workers and run navigator programs, some have concerns about the navigators themselves. The workers are given a high level of access to personal information of any applicants they help, sparking concerns in some states that do not require a high level of background checks to get the job.
The security of personal data has become a significant concern as many Obamacare applicants may need to seek assistance from multiple sources, from navigators to call centers. (RELATED: Backpack With 400 Obamacare Sign-ups Personal Info Found In Connecticut)
National Review Online reported in February that a convicted terrorist had worked as an Obamacare navigator in Chicago last year, after lying on immigration papers and gaining citizenship. The woman, Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, used up to nine aliases and her background was not revealed in her background check. (RELATED: Convicted terrorist who blew up Israeli students was once hired as Obamacare navigator)
The Affordable Care Act itself does not require states to perform background checks on navigators, but Tavenner “encouraged” applicants for this year’s federal navigator grants to perform background checks on workers who will be dealing with customer information.