Marco Rubio: Protect Americans from Obamacare con artists

US Senate Photographic Studio-Renee Bouchard

We are now entering the seventh week since Obamacare’s exchanges went live, and several big problems remain clear.

• First, the website where people are supposed to buy insurance — or be penalized by the IRS for not doing so — is still plagued by technical problems and security concerns.

• Second, despite hundreds of millions of dollars devoted to a Spanish-language Obamacare propaganda campaign, the Spanish-language Obamacare website hasn’t even been launched yet.

• And, most troubling, is that millions of Americans are now being notified that they will lose the health plans they were happy with, along with the doctors they know and trust — something President Obama promised would never happen under Obamacare, although recent revelations show his administration has known for at least three years this was inevitable.

All this means millions of Americans now have to shop for new health-insurance plans, but the websites they are supposed to buy insurance don’t work. In response, President Obama and his administration have steered people toward a 1-800 help line and in-person enrollment through Obamacare’s network of so-called “navigators.”

This is a troubling proposition for the American people who are now being forced into other Obamacare enrollment options that could make them more susceptible to fraud and personal identity theft. As Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted last week, there is no uniform standard of background checks conducted on navigators, and nothing to prevent convicted felons from becoming navigators.

Americans know all too well the high personal and economic costs of fraud in our healthcare industry. For example, each year in Florida, we see hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars vanish into the hands of Medicare and Medicaid fraudsters, many of whom have found refuge from the American justice system in places like Cuba. And Hispanics in particular should be wary of entrusting just anyone to help them fill out government applications, as so many in our community have been victimized by so-called notarios, who take immigrants’ money and immigration paperwork, and then do nothing for them.

As Obamacare’s website failures push more people toward non-web enrollment options, the same kind of con artists who have been defrauding Medicare, Medicaid and immigrants will be inclined to do the same through Obamacare’s navigator network.

And as time goes on, we will inevitably see more cases of people fraudulently posing as navigators, collecting personal information and then exploiting innocent victims. And while some states like Florida have taken proactive steps to raise standards for aspiring navigators and toughen consumer protection safeguards, many states have not.

This is a recipe for people falling prey to fraud, identity theft or gross incompetence by those operating as Obamacare navigators.

It is unacceptable that President Obama is forcing the American people to blindly trust the federal government’s website security and its network of navigators to help them comply with Obamacare. As consumers are being pushed to shop for insurance through Obamacare, navigators and other non-online options, they proceed with great care and caution against fraudsters intending to do them harm.

Congress should also act, which is why I have introduced common-sense legislation to protect Americans from Obamacare-related identity theft committed by fraudulent navigators, crack down on fraudsters and raise background-check standards for people applying to be navigators.

While this is not a fool-proof solution to address Obamacare’s problems, it is one that will provide a greater degree of protection and relief to the people dealing with the Obamacare’s consequences. While I believe Obamacare as a whole should be repealed and replaced, until we can do so, we must protect our people from its flaws.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio represents Florida in the U.S. Senate.

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