Affordable Care Act navigator program slammed at Richardson hear - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Affordable Care Act navigator program both slammed, supported at Richardson hearing

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RICHARDSON, Texas -

A key part of the Affordable Care Act faced tough criticism in North Texas Monday afternoon.

Republican Congressmen Pete Sessions and Darrell Issa held a hearing in Richardson on the navigator program.

Navigators are trained to sign people up on the federal health care exchange. The program has been accused of fraud, most notably in a series of undercover videos shot in Texas, and Republican Congressmen met with the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee to shine light on that.

"In Dallas, navigators have been caught on camera advising individuals to commit tax fraud," said Issa.

Inside, Republicans railed against Obamacare and the navigators hired to guide people through it.

Outside, advocates for the Affordable Care Act railed against the Congressmen.

"Certain politicians, for their own political careers, are trying to find chinks in the armor, trying to find a way to turn us all back," said Gene Lantz, with the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans.

Republican Pete Sessions brought their hearing to Richardson after conservative activists with Project Veritas released undercover videos showing trainees at agencies in Dallas, Irving and other Texas cities encouraging enrollees to lie on applications.

"We've been doing this for about four or five months," said Daniel Francisco with Project Veritas. "I can assure you that when we get through the holidays, there's going to be more content in Texas coming out."

Fort Worth Democrat Marc Veasey said the navigators caught on tape are the exception -- not the rule.

"I hope we can talk about a much more significant problem, and that is, why our governor, Rick Perry, is refusing to expand the state's Medicaid program," said Veasey.

After the hearing, Sessions expressed concern that private, personal information from applicants will not be secure.

"The navigators are not trained professionally, cannot offer products and services and it's a terrible disservice to the people of North Texas," said Sessions.

The Texas Organizing Project works with navigators. The group says Issa and Sessions shut them out.

"Several navigators actually requested to testify in this hearing and were denied access," said Allison Brim.

Brim said the hearing targeted people who were trying to do the best they could.  

"This hearing today really is a witch hunt," said Brim. "It is targeting the folks, navigators, who are doing the best job they can in a really difficult climate here in Texas, to simply get the 6 million who don't have health care the tools and the information they need to sign up for quality health care for their families."

The committee says it did extend an invitation to the Dallas Urban League, one of the agencies whose navigators were caught on tape. But no one from the Urban League showed up, and FOX 4's efforts to contact them over the last couple of days have failed.

There have been consequences for some of the navigators. The Greater Urban League of Dallas said that it had disciplined four of the navigators by firing one and suspending three.

There are still problems with the website and the application process, but the latest figures show nearly a quarter million Texans have signed up for coverage through the federal exchange, which is the largest number of any state.

However, other big states have their own exchanges, meaning that people don't have to go through the feds.

Texas also has, far and away, the most uninsured people -- something like 6 million people.

The hearing is the fourth in a series of field hearings on the Affordable Care Act's impact on Americans.

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