Planned Parenthood will receive more than half-a-million dollars in U.S. taxpayer funds to help sign people up for ObamaCare health insurance plans during a three month period in 2014-15.
For the second year in a row, the Department of Health and Human Services will award two Planned Parenthood chapters in Iowa and Montana federal grants to act as “navigators” for those uninsured or otherwise unable to navigate the labyrinth of new insurance regulations ushered in by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland will receive an “anticipated grant” of $218,940 (slightly more than its $214,427 grant last year), while Intermountain Planned Parenthood will take in $292,459 (down slightly from $295,604 in 2013).
The inclusion of Planned Parenthood employees raises privacy concerns, as they and all ObamaCare navigators have access to a vast federal database of sensitive information, including the Social Security number, tax form, bank account, and medical records of every single American citizen. The hub links the HHS to at least seven other federal agencies and their records: the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the Social Security Administration, the Defense Department, the Veterans Health Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Peace Corps.
“In-person assisters have an impact on the lives of so many Americans,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement announcing the navigator grants.
The federal government requires no background check that would forbid a felon, even one guilty of identity theft, from acting as a navigator.
“It continues to be of great concern to me that the administration is funneling taxpayer dollars to organizations like Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider,” Congresswoman Diane Black, R-TN, told The Washington Times. “Additionally, these ObamaCare Navigators will have little training, but will be tasked with handling Americans’ most sensitive personal information — giving Americans even more reason to be concerned about risks from fraud and identity theft due to ObamaCare.”
The HHS attempted to deflect those charges this year, saying, “In no case will Navigators obtain a consumer’s PII [personally identifiable information] without the consumer’s consent.” The agency added in a press release that navigator grantees “are required to be trained on and comply with strict security and privacy standards,” adding the same “was the case last year.”
Yet last year the federal government reduced the hours of mandatory training in order to get more navigators through the program and enroll the maximum number of people. Thirteen state attorneys general sent a letter to the HHS at that time warning that the Obama administration had “failed to adequately protect the privacy” of Americans from “unscrupulous counselors.”
Last November, Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, asked then-HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius if it were possible that “convicted felons” would have access to citizens' private data without their knowledge under the navigator program.
“That is possible,” she replied.
Cornyn said the navigators program should be canceled.
This proved more than theoretical. The state of Connecticut employed a felon in its AccessHealthCT program.
The state of Illinois temporarily employed a convicted Palestinian terrorist who emigrated from Jordan, Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, who in 1969 killed two Israeli university students by blowing up a grocery store on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
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Some state governments attempted to plug the security breach with state laws. Texas required background checks, 40 hours of additional training, and a written test as part of its requirements. But some have taken no action.
This year's grants are down slightly from last year, both nationwide and for Planned Parenthood specifically. HHS this year awarded $60 million to 90 agencies in 34 states, down from $67 million last year.
Last year, the nation's largest abortion provider received more than $655,000 directly in federal funds to participate in the program, because a third affiliate – Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE), based in New Hampshire – received a grant of $145,161. But PPNNE paid a $30,000 settlement after it did not properly register its Action Fund and broke campaign finance laws while campaigning against Republican candidate for governor Brian Dubie.
This year's grant recipients in New Hampshire once again include the Bi-State Primary Care Association, which will receive a hefty $454,985. Six of the organization's 39 “member clinical sites” in New Hampshire are Planned Parenthood offices.
In all, Planned Parenthood received $540.6 million from federal, state, and local tax revenues in 2012, or 45.2 percent of its total budget.
Although it did not announce any new privacy restrictions, the federal government added a “marketplace” training course to help navigators convince “college-age students,” who have largely resisted ObamaCare, to “enroll in coverage.”
The Kaiser Family Foundation announced this summer that “more than 28,000 full-time-equivalent staff and volunteers, helped an estimated 10.6 million people” apply for health insurance coverage “during the first Open Enrollment period.” That averages out to 1.8 people a day per navigator. It is unclear how many people actually received the coverage they applied for.
Nor is it clear everyone who is being signed up is eligible for the taxpayer-subsidized program. Enroll America was caught assisting people inside the Mexican consulate. Enroll America field organizer Jose Medrano told Breitbart News in March that signing up everyone, including “Mexican nationals,” is “our responsibility” as navigators.