State Representative Lon Burnam has a simple request of anyone interested in learning just how far the state Republican leadership will go to throw a wrench into efforts to provide affordable health insurance to millions of uninsured Texans. Subpoena him. Do it. Please.
The Fort Worth legislator is among a cadre of vocal Democrats who accuse Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Department of Insurance of trying to obstruct enrollment under the Affordable Care Act by drafting a set of onerous training requirements for "navigators," the people employed under ACA to help the uninsured get coverage. The feds have awarded Texas $11 million to train and hire navigators, but the TDI says the feds' training requirements aren't tough enough. The agency has proposed rules that could more than double the amount of training time and raise the cost of that training by up to $800 per navigator.
The TDI says its rules are necessary to protect Texans' privacy, aren't politically motivated and have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Perry and pals are being dragged by their heels, fingers clawing the dirt, into the age of Obamacare.
If you believe that, Burnam has some records he wants to show you. In December, he sent a letter to the TDI seeking documents concerning how it came up with the proposed rules. Since he's a legislator, TDI had to give him the goods, but because the agency claims the documents are not subject to open-records laws -- wouldn't want the pesky people to know what the state is up to -- he can't legally share them without a subpoena.
"I wish somebody would subpoena me," Burnam says. "If ever there was a smoking gun, this is one."
The documents make it clear that "Governor Perry is committed to making sure Obamacare doesn't work in the state of Texas," he says.
But isn't that kind of obvious already?
Maybe to people who closely follow the news, Burnam says, but he's not sure everyone is aware of just how hard Perry is working to sabotage ACA. "I was on the insurance committee for three terms and I never experienced this kind of diligence on 'consumer protection,'" he says, emphasizing that he is being ironic. "This is consumer obstruction."
The TDI's rules are scheduled to go into effect by March 1, meaning they would lay extra training requirements on navigators one month before the March 31 deadline for consumers to apply for insurance that's eligible for federal tax credits.