Tarrant County group defends health care navigator program

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by CARLA WADE

Bio | Email | Follow: @CarlaNWade

WFAA

Posted on November 13, 2013 at 6:59 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 13 at 7:40 PM

DALLAS — The fallout continues, one day after the conservative watchdog group Project Veritas posted a video that appears to show Affordable Health Care navigators in North Texas engaging in fraud and other questionable practices.

The highly edited video shows navigators telling someone posing as a potential enrollee to lie. The video was shot inside two Urban League of Greater Dallas offices, according to Project Veritas.

As a result, one Urban League employee was fired and three others were suspended.

The United Way of Tarrant County received nearly $6 million to hire and train navigators, the largest grant provided out to any single organization in the country.

President and CEO Tim McKinney saw the Project Veritas video. He said his organization takes the training of health care navigators very seriously.

"We are certainly instructing all of our navigators to be truthful and respectful in conversations with the consumer," McKinney said.

He explained that through a consortium of agencies, The United Way of Tarrant County has trained more than the 75 minimum navigators required by the federal government's grant.

In all, 120 navigators have been certified and trained; six are working in Tarrant County.

“We required a background check, which the federal government does not," McKinney said. "We are also providing an additional one-and-a-half hours of privacy training for all of our navigators."

At least one lawmaker, Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn, called on President Obama Wednesday to dismantle the navigator program. Here are excerpts from Cornyn's written statement:

"I think Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius surprised an awful lot of people when she admitted that people participating in the navigator program could possibly be convicted felons, because there is simply no screening mechanism to bar them from participating in the process and no background check whatsoever.

 

"We need to also dismantle the navigators program before it unleashes a wave of fraud and corruption."

McKinney said he disagrees with Cornyn's analysis.

"I really don’t like to get into the politics of it, but I don't think that’s an appropriate action,” he said.

Especially, he said, when there are an estimated six million or more Texans who are uninsured.

Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe has used undercover cameras before. He filmed workers in ACORN offices in 2009, saying he uncovered illegal acts of voter fraud. Those workers were later cleared.

Because the video comes from O’Keefe’s partisan activist group, the Urban League is requesting an unedited copy and promising a full investigation.

E-mail cwade@wfaa.com

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