The Right Prescription

Sebelius’s Monkey Business

So-called community organizations are overdosing on taxpayers' money.

By 5.15.13

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Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius was criticized last week for soliciting private contributions to Enroll America, a non-governmental organization run by former Obama campaign operatives. The real monkey business is what the Secretary is doing with taxpayers’ money. She’s pouring it into community organizations. The pretext is that community organizations will do a better job than government employees in enrolling the uninsured in Obamacare. But the likelihood is that these community organizations will steer the uninsured into the Democratic Party.

And beware. The Senate immigration bill tries to repeat this unsavory use of community organizations. It pays community organizations to educate immigrants about American civics and the path to citizenship.

Last week’s brouhaha came about because Sebelius raised money for Enroll America after House Republicans refused to approve additional public funding for Obamacare enrollment efforts.

So what is Enroll America? Its board of directors is made up of Insurers and hospital organizations that will benefit from enrolling millions of people in Obamacare. But its management is 100% political. Its president is Anne Filipic, formerly Deputy Director of the Office of Public Engagement in the White House, where she networked with community organizers. Before that, she had a top job at the Democratic National Committee, and before that she managed Obama’s victorious 2008 Iowa Caucus bid.

To design a media campaign, Enroll America hired Lake Research, which also manages messaging for ACORN, MoveOn.org, LaRaza, and 39 members of Congress, all Democrats.

Sebelius’s fundraising for Enroll America was inappropriate, but it’s minor compared with delivering taxpayer dollars to community organizers. Yet Sebelius isn't breaking the law. Amazingly, the Obama health law requires that community organizations be hired as “navigators” to enroll the uninsured.

So far Sebelius has announced $45 million in navigator grants. Who qualifies? You don’t have to know math or insurance, but rules announced April 5 specify you have to match the race, ethnicity, and language preferences of the neighborhood that will be targeted. The odious presumption is that only Asians can assist Asians, only blacks can enroll blacks, only Harlem residents can help Harlem residents.

In addition to navigator grants, last week HHS announced $150 million for community health centers to “hire and train staff to conduct community outreach efforts.” Behind those weasel words is the truth that many community health centers engage in political activism. The National Association of Community Health Centers states that part of its mission is registering people to vote and collecting patients’ signatures on desired legislation. Employees hired by the community health centers can say and do things government employees can't. That's the problem.

Here's more monkey business. Section 4201 of Obamacare authorizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to hand out over $100 million a year in "community transformation grants" to improve the emotional and social wellness of their community, combat environmental hazards, foster healthy living, and reduce disparities between the races. That mandate is so broad it can justify anything.

In September 2012, the CDC awarded $7.9 million to Community Health Councils, based in Los Angeles. Community Health Councils’ executive director, Lark Galloway-Gilliam, has led protests under the organization’s banner against fracking, for-profit hospitals, state budget cuts, and oil drilling. Community Health Councils announced that part of the $7.9 million would be used to “educate community members about environmental hazards” and the rest would be distributed to neighborhood partners.

No matter how you feel about Obamacare, it's outrageous that money is going for this, rather than covering the uninsured.

The Senate immigration bill includes the same misuse of community organizations. Sections 2106, 2534, 2535, and 2536 fund community organizations to educate immigrants about citizenship. This started in 2009, and a past recipient is the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, which claims to “build political power through citizenship drives and voter registration.” Immigrant education should not be outsourced to community organizations. The Office of Citizenship (part of the Department of Homeland Security) provides nonpartisan materials to teach immigrants about citizenship. Its activities are subject to public oversight. That’s where the responsibility should stay.

The nation has a community organizer for President. He knows better than anyone that outsourcing government functions to community organizations invites abuse. Why aren't Republicans in Congress protesting these provisions and demanding their removal?

Photo: UPI

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About the Author
Betsy McCaugheyis a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Analysis and author of Beating Obamacare 2014.