WICHITA, Kan. -- As the Obama Administration continued this week to defend its troubled rollout of online enrollment for health insurance plans offered under the Affordable Care Act, another concern came to light: It is possible convicted felons are working as health care navigators.
During testimony before the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said there is no federal requirement that navigator applicants undergo criminal background checks.
Kansas also has no such requirement in place. However, many of the organizations who hired navigators -- people who will help consumers enroll in health insurance plans -- conducted background checks along with extensive selection processes.
"Our bacground check because we do work in the health care industry is more extensive than any regular background check," said Juven Nava, Outreach Coordinator for GraceMed.
GraceMed is one of the several Kansas health clinics awarded grants to hire navigators. Nava said, in addition to the background checks, GraceMed applicants went through a rigorous selection process.
"It started with a phone interview all the way to an in-person interview -- a group interview -- then our interview with our CEO," he said. "It was a very intensive process to get our navigators on-board."
Once hired, the navigators underwent about 30 hours worth of training, Nava said.
After Sebelius' testimony this week, 10 state attorneys general, including Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, are pushing the federal government to require background checks for navigator applicants.
"We started quietly in August hoping to work with them and got no response and so we've now stepped-up our expression of concern," Schmidt said.
If a federal requirement doesn't come along, Schmidt hopes Kansas legislators will institute a state requirement for background checks. He said it will help ensure consumers' private information is protected.
"I think it's an appropriate measure for the legislature to consider because if the state isn't willing to step up and try to fill this gap, I'm afraid the gap won't be filled," he said.
Nava said some protections are already in place. Federal rules prohibit navigators from recording any client's personal information.
"A lot of the times, when we enter the financial information, we ask you to enter it just because we don't want to do anything that could hamper any of your information," he said.