The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal.com’s “Best of the Web” written by the editor, James Taranto.
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Bottom Story of the Day
“Exclusive: Syria Has Shipped Out Less Than 5 Percent of Chemical Weapons”–headline, Reuters, Jan. 29
National Review’s Jillian Melchior has been looking into the criminal records of ObamaCare “navigators.” Her latest report finds that California’s ObamaCare healthcare exchange employs “at least 43 convicted criminals” as navigators, “including three individuals with records of significant financial crimes”:
Limited statistics released by Covered California . . . showed that one navigator has repeat forgery offenses–one in 1982, then another in 1994, with a burglary in between. Another had two forgery convictions in 1988, in addition to a domestic-violence charge a decade later. Another committed welfare fraud in 1999 and had shoplifted on at least two prior occasions. Since 2000, individuals now working as navigators have committed crimes including child abuse, battery, petty theft, and evading a police officer. At least seven navigators have multiple convictions. The information released covered only certified enrollment counselors, one of the three types of navigators working in California.
Perhaps they’ve been rehabilitated, and no one begrudges an ex-con who’s paid his debt to society the chance at a new start and a job. “But why this job?” the subheadline asks rhetorically. As Melchior notes, “when navigators sign consumers up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, they have access to lots of private information, including Social Security numbers, home addresses, and financial data–basically, everything on the wish list of identity thieves and fraudsters.”
Melchior reports that that Covered California refused her request for the names of the ex-con navigators:
“All of these documents are nondisclosable because ‘the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record,’ ” a lawyer for the insurance exchange wrote, citing [a section of the California Public Records Act]. “Disclosing the names and criminal records of individuals applying to assist in Covered California’s push to enroll vast numbers in health insurance by March 31, 2014, is likely to discourage participation in this critical program and thus harm the people of California.”
We’re not sure this makes sense even if one accepts the premise that encouraging “participation in this critical program” is a matter of weighty public interest. Wouldn’t the disclosure of the fact that Covered California employs navigators with a criminal history be discouragement enough?
But the premise itself is shocking. “This critical program” is a commercial enterprise, essentially an insurance brokerage, that happens to be run by the state. Imagine if a private company defied disclosure laws and withheld embarrassing information, offering as its rationale that it would disserve the “public interest” to discourage consumers from buying its valuable product.
It’s another example of the point we made in November with respect to President Obama’s fraudulent sales tactics: An important function of government regulation is to protect consumers from abusive business practices. When the government is running the business, it can recast abuses as a matter of “public interest,” leaving consumers–at least those without political connections–with nowhere to go for protection.
Oh well, at least we have the watchdog press. …
For more “Best of the Web” click here and look for the “Best of the Web Today” link in the middle column below “Today’s Columnists.”