It all seems to have stemmed from a line of questioning that Cornyn posed to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Nov. 6, at a hearing that was supposed to focus on HealthCare.gov.And predictably:
"Isn't it true that there is no federal requirement for navigators to undergo a criminal background, even though they will receive personal -- sensitive personal information from the individuals they helped sign up for the Affordable Care Act?" Cornyn inquired.
"That is true. States could add an additional background check and other features, but it is not part of the federal requirement," Sebelius replied.
"So a convicted felon could be a navigator and could acquire sensitive personal information from an individual, unbeknownst to them," Cornyn said.
"That is possible," Sebelius said.
The next day on the Senate floor, [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell seized on Sebelius's comments: "These revelations are really concerning."Scandal! Shock! Outrage! Rogue Obamacare navigators are stealing your identity as we speak!
“Americans who’ve lost their insurance and find themselves forced onto the exchanges -- the last thing they need is to worry about some felon stealing their identity," he said.
Scary ... except, with all due respect to the Mitch and his fellow Republican senators, what Sebelius was actually saying was that while their doomsday scenario was theoretically conceivable, in practice (a) the Federal government contracts with organizations like United Way and local universities to act as navigators, (b) there are safeguards in place to protect sensitive information, and (c) states can add additional requirements if they so choose.
In fact, as it turns out, there are more safeguards preventing rogue navigators than there are safeguards preventing rampant criminality in the Congress, because under the U.S. Constitution, it's perfectly legal for a felon to serve in U.S. House or Senate. Once elected, the only thing stopping him or her would be the possibility of expulsion.
The real question that Sebelius should have been asked is whether there is any evidence that this is something that Americans who want to get health insurance should be concerned about. The answer to that is no: this is a threat that exists in the GOP's imagination alone. If there's anything they should be worried about, it's the possibility of having a health emergency without having health insurance. And if the Republican scare tactic succeeds, that's exactly what will happen to many Americans.