The Wall Street Journal's editorial board rushed to the defense of recent Republican efforts to sabotage the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by intimidating officials, known as navigators, tasked with informing customers about health care options.
Under the ACA, a health care "Navigator" program was created to train counselors to help Americans understand new health care services available to them. The effort is modeled after an existing Medicare program that guides recipients through their available benefits. Navigators were scheduled to begin enrolling participants in insurance coverage on October 1, but Republican members of Congress recently seized upon the program as an opportunity to slow down the implementation of the ACA. On August 29, GOP members of the House sent a letter to approximately 60 percent of the nation's health care navigators, demanding thousands of pages of documentation and giving the officials a two-week deadline to comply. Rather than investigating the Navigator program nation-wide, the Republicans appeared to specifically target states where delays in the program could cause the greatest problems. As Salon explained:
All of the navigator grant recipients are based in states with federally facilitated exchanges and states partnering with the feds to stand up their marketplaces. Salon's analysis reveals that among these states, Republicans directed their inquiries to organizations in states with the largest uninsured populations.
Now, Republicans could easily respond that they targeted organizations in these states because they wanted to protect as many uninsured people as they can. But that would be another way of saying they hope their inquiry slows the enrollment process as much as possible. If the goal was to establish best practices for navigators, sending 50 organizations in states with large uninsured populations on the same wild goose chase is an odd way to go about it.
Think Progress noted that the Republican tactic "is reminiscent of the kind of practices Republicans had condemned over the summer, after news broke that the IRS subjected certain groups applying for 501 C4 nonprofit tax status to long, intrusive, questionnaires about their filings."
The WSJ editorial board defended the GOP's letter in a September 5 editorial, even mocking critics who think the targeted requests for documents are unreasonable:
With ObamaCare scheduled to launch on October 1, Democrats seem more than a little anxious about their ability to execute. That's the only fathomable explanation for their nervous breakdown over a routine House inquiry.
Prepare the fainting couches. HHS has responded by calling the GOP requests "a blatant and shameful attempt to intimidate groups who will be working to inform Americans about" the glories of national health care. Norm Ornstein, the American Enterprise Institute's house liberal, claims this is "another effort at sabotage" because the navigators won't be in the field while they're responding to the letters. Best of all, Henry Waxman claims to be shocked. The Democratic investigations specialist says the letters are "an abuse of your oversight authority," and he would know.
All of this outrage is part of the liberal alibi that Republicans are responsible if ObamaCare stumbles. But if the handsomely financed navigators can't spare an hour or two to comply with a congressional investigation, then the law must be in bigger trouble than Democrats care to admit.
The Navigator program has frequently been subjected to right-wing media attacks. Fox News' Megyn Kelly and Chris Stirewalt have baselessly speculated that the program might allow "unions and community advocacy groups" to steal patients' personal information, and Fox contributor Michelle Malkin once alleged the navigators would be "another Obama threat to American's privacy" based on what she called Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' "sordid snooping history."