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House Republicans Use Sleight of Hand to Hinder 'Navigators' of ACA, Slowing Implementation

Early in August we reported that among other state-level strategies to derail Obamacare:

GOP lawmakers have learned a thing or two from their "War on Women" strategy of regulating reproductive choice almost out of existence, and seem to be using the same regulatory approach to sabotage the Obamacare exchange. Otherwise religiously anti-regulation GOPers have decided that they must rigorously regulate individuals, known as navigators, hired to help Missourians use the exchanges lest they engage in "fraud." And if they manage in the process to slow the information stream to a trickle, well, what can you do?

A recent Salon article by Brian Buetler makes it clear that this effort to keep reliable information from those who most need Obamacare has become a coordinated national-level strategy, directed toward those states with the most to loose, those that have the largest uninsured populations. Prominent among these states is Missouri which is now on the receiving end of both state-level and national-level Obamacare obstructionism:

For the most part, Republican state elected officials have undertaken the most direct efforts to stand between uninsured people and Obamacare - refusing to launch their own exchanges and expand Medicaid - while Republicans in federal office fight a more symbolic fight.

But now a group of House Republicans has crossed that line - by attempting to bog down Obamacare enrollment specialists in states with the highest uninsured populations, according to a new Salon analysis.

Last week, as several other outlets reported, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to state agencies and nonprofit groups that received Obamacare "navigator" grants - organizations that will help educate people about the law and facilitate their enrollment - seeking an incredibly broad and difficult-to-compile range of information.

In order to do the most harm, the House Republicans directed their inquiries to organizations in 11 states with larger uninsured populations than in other states - including Missouri. As Beutler notes, claims that the inquires are meant to protect the privacy of those using the exchanges ring hollow since the Committee members seem unconcerned with protecting the privacy of Obamacare exchange users in any of the remaining 39 states, instead, he writes, the "targeting scheme was meant to maximize bang for their buck." Supporting this contention is the timing of the inquires; Beutler quotes Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA):

"The timing of these letters is particularly suspect," Waxman wrote in a letter to Upton protesting the investigation. "You are insisting on voluminous document productions by September 13, just when these groups need to be focused on their mission of helping uninsured Americans enroll for coverage. Indeed, it appears that these requests may have been sent solely to divert the resources of small, local community groups, just as they are needed to help with the new health care law."

This latest bit of flim-flam is only the most recent in a long string of efforts to derail the healthcare delivery reforms we democratically authorized in the election of 2008 and reaffirmed in 2012. The Republicans who were sent to do the people's business in Washington D.C. have even descended to the level of trying to intimidate national sports franchises to keep them from helping publicize Obamacare benefits. This level of opposition is beyond cynical; it's truly vile.

I am a cancer patient. Last Friday, I learned that I am, after a lengthy and complex treatment process involving two surgeries and seemingly endless chemotherapy, in remission. I happen to have access to good insurance and received truly excellent care. I cannot imagine what would have happened if I had been uninsured - although one thing I am sure of, given the nature of my particular cancer symptoms, is that I would have been diagnosed at an even later stage of the disease and I would likely be dead now, rendering questions of my ongoing care moot.

From this perspective, I not only want to know what is being done to counteract this disgusting effort to hurt real, actual people in the name of a trumped-up, long-discredited, rightwing ideology that sees efforts to use collective resources for public benefit as some type of suspect "socialism" that must be stopped at all costs. I also want to know who is going to publicize the evil perpetrated by Republican Obamacare fraudsters during the past few years. I want their names and their crimes on a publicly accessible list.

I want the Republicans in Missouri who have participated in these and other Obamacare charades, who have promulgated disinformation and outright lies to be held accountable in a way that hurts them as much as they have hurt the citizens of the state. I have never been an eye for an eye kind of person. I have always scoffed at the whining of crime victims who carry on as if they and they alone have the right to determine what punishment is adequate to the crimes carried out against them, but this time I want to know that Republicans who have participated in GOP's descent into evil will have to pay.

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