March 26 2014

How Did Criminals Become Nevada ObamaCare Navigators?

Jillian Kay Melchior

SPECIAL TO THE LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL & NATIONAL REVIEW

Nevada’s Division of Insurance must not have wanted consumers to know that at least eight Obamacare navigators it licensed had criminal pasts. National Review and the Las Vegas Review-Journal had to sue the division to obtain those public records, and navigators’ criminal histories are not the only disturbing facts we discovered.

Half of the navigators who’d had run-ins with the law failed to disclose it on their applications despite the requirement to do so — but they received division approval anyway, the records show.

And before the open-enrollment push began, Nevada Division of Insurance Commissioner Scott Kipper briefly approved conditional certification for some navigators before their background checks were complete, prematurely clearing them to access consumers’ confidential information, including Social Security numbers, home addresses and financial records.

All of this calls into question the suitability and integrity of some Obamacare navigators, as well as the judgment of the Nevada Division of Insurance.

While critics will argue for a second chance for mistake-makers who have paid their debt to society, consumers — who are being compelled by the federal government to buy health coverage — should be certain that their confidential information and privacy are being protected.

Likewise, vulnerable Nevadans — a population this health law seeks to especially benefit — shouldn’t have to wonder whether their navigator has a reckless or dangerous past.

Nevertheless, navigators’ records ranged from the scary to the ridiculous.

One navigator had been convicted of family violence battery in 2005 and, according to the warrant, had been arrested for “punching [the] victim in the face and head, causing cuts on left eyebrow and right ear.” That same navigator allegedly violated a restraining order in 2012 by going into someone’s backyard and in 2002 pleaded guilty to shoplifting at Nordstrom.

Another navigator was arrested in the 1980s for attempting to commit fraud. “A guy friend … helped me obtain [forged] ID so I could open a bank account and make deposits to allow [completed checks] to clear the bank and the funds to be dispersed,” the navigator wrote. Though it was a felony charge, after restitution and a six-month stint at Santa Clara County Halfway Program, the navigator ended up with a misdemeanor conviction.

Another navigator wrote that in 1988, “being young, stupid and drug addicted, I made up a story” — that she had been kidnapped — “in an attempt to covereup an [sic] drug binge that I was engaged in, resulting in my staying out all night, unable to be located, and causing extreme [worry] by my family and former domestic partner.”

Nevada insurance law establishes that special caution is warranted when a person seeking a license also has a criminal history involving dishonesty, fraud, theft or “multiple convictions that demonstrate a repeated disregard for the law.”

But other crimes on record for approved navigators include battery, criminal endangerment, obstructing a police officer and drug charges. Though the incidents stretched back as late as the 1980s, several had been committed in the past decade, and at least three navigators had more than one offense on record. Four couldn’t even be bothered to fill out their applications honestly.

“Despite the above incident in my past I assure you I am an honest and trustworthy person,” wrote one navigator who didn’t disclose a petty theft conviction at a J.C. Penney in Santa Maria, Calif. “I was embarrassed about this mistake that I committed my past and feared losing my job if I did mark yes [and disclose it].”

Another navigator, who ended up with two misdemeanor convictions after a felony drug charge and a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, wrote of a failed attempt to get the records sealed after being caught for failure to disclose. “I made an error when I was young and I made another error in not putting it on my application, I can’t take it back. I’m a good citizen and I don’t want to loose [sic] my job,” that navigator wrote. “So again I apologize if I sound pushy, but my job is on the line.”

Joy Miller, the chief of the producer licensing section, said the Division of Insurance has a complex licensing process that involves screening, a fingerprint-based background check, independent investigations into navigator applicants’ backgrounds and, when there’s a potential problem, additional investigation and examination by the licensing review committee. And spokesman Jake Sunderland touted a “my mom” test, saying he’d entrust his relatives to any Division of Insurance-approved navigator.

As nice as that sounds, an elaborate review process means little when it fails to weed out liars, thieves, fraudsters and abusers. In a state where unemployment averaged 9.4 percent last year, there’s no reason to make allowances for navigators with disconcerting histories.

Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center. She is also a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

 

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