When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, you have to give Republicans credit for sheer sticktoitiveness. They tried to defeat the law, but it passed. They tried to get the Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional, but that didn't work. So now, as the open-enrollment period for the exchanges approaches on October 1, they're thinking creatively to find new ways to sabotage the law. Sure, at this point that means screwing over people who need insurance, but sometimes there's unavoidable collateral damage when you're fighting a war.
Their latest target is the Obamacare "navigators." Because not just the law but the insurance market itself can be pretty complicated, the ACA included money to train and support people whose job it would be to help people get through this new system, answering consumers' questions and guiding them through the process. Grants have been given to hospitals, community groups, charities like the United Way, churches, and the like in the 34 states that are relying on the federal government to operate their exchanges in whole or in part. You can see the problem: If there are folks out there helping people get health coverage, that will mean that people will get health coverage. And that won't do.
So Republicans are implementing a joint federal-state subversion campaign. On the federal level, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have sent threatening letters to recipients of the navigator grants, demanding copious documentation on everything they've done having anything to do with the program (Jonathan Cohn explains here). Not because there's been any suggestion of fraud or incompetence—don't forget, at this point all the navigators have been doing is getting ready for open enrollment when they'll have to start helping people—but on the apparent theory that if you can harass them enough, it'll keep them from doing their jobs.
Meanwhile, on the state level, Republicans are finding whatever ways they can to get in the navigators' way. Just get a load of this despicable toad:
That's Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, a former chemical company salesman and Republican state legislator, who I guess ran for insurance commissioner because he cares so much about people. He explains how when it comes to Obamacare, he's doing "everything in our power to be an obstructionist." He then explains, to the laughs and cheers of this Republican crowd, how a new law requires the navigators to get licensed by his department, with the clear implication that they'll make it as difficult as possible.
In fact, 16 Republican-controlled states have passed laws imposing requirements on the navigators over and above what the federal government is already requiring. And guess who's writing these laws? Lobbyists for insurance agents and brokers, who worry they'll lose business if people can just call up a toll-free number and have somebody explain to them how to get insurance on their state's exchange.
Remember, what they're trying to do here is make it as hard as possible for people to get insurance. It's as simple as that. The more people they can keep from getting insurance, in this case by keeping them from getting the information they need to buy insurance on the exchanges, the easier it will be for them to argue that the Affordable Care Act is a failure. And what about the human suffering that will cause if they're successful? The diseases that go undiagnosed because people avoid going to the doctor, the uninsured families bankrupted when struck with an accident or illness? Too bad. Because screw you, Obama.
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