WVa group declines grant after AG asks questions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia nonprofit has turned down a federal grant it received to help residents navigate new health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act after it received an inquiry from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey about how it would protect consumer information.

Clarksburg-based West Virginia Parent Training Inc. did not respond to a letter it received from Morrisey directing it to answer 26 questions about the group’s personnel and hiring practices, including employee background checks and employee monitoring programs, the Sunday Gazette-Mail (http://bit.ly/17M1QVe) reported.

“We’ve declined (the grant) because of unforeseen circumstances,” WVPTI Executive Director Pat Haberbosch told the newspaper.

Haberbosch did not say why her group declined the grant. But she said she was surprised by Morrisey’s inquiry.

She said Morrisey has the right as attorney general to conduct such an inquiry if it’s based on protecting consumers. “That’s his job,” she said.

Richmond, Va.-based Advance Patient Advocacy also was awarded a federal grant to work as a health insurance navigator in West Virginia and received a similar inquiry from Morrisey. Spokesman Rodney Napier said the group answered Morrisey’s questions and will not return the grant.

“We have confidence in our ability to complete the task at hand,” Napier told the newspaper.

Advance Patient Advocacy already conducts employee background checks and provides more training that the federal grant rules require, he said.

In August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded a $365,000 grant to West Virginia Parent Training to help people with limited literacy, disabilities and in rural areas decide on insurance plans that will be offered through online health care exchanges. Advanced Patient Advocacy received a $276,617 grant to help uninsured people at hospitals sign up for health insurance.

Enrollment in these plans begins Oct. 1.

A spokesman for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid said the agency was evaluating how WVPTI’s grant funds might be redistributed.

Perry Bryant, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, said his Charleston-based nonprofit group might apply for the funding.

“It’s unclear what the (federal agency) is going to do at this point,” Bryant said. “The question is: Will they have somebody else do this or will West Virginia consumers lose out?”

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said that Morrisey opposes the Affordable Health Care Act and had intimidated WVPTI. He said the matter should be investigated.

Morrisey said that federal implementation of the navigator program has been rushed and that the program needs to be vetted to protect consumers’ private information.

“I refuse to stand by and potentially allow West Virginians’ consumer privacy to be jeopardized. How will the public know the difference between an Obamacare navigator and a scammer?” Morrisey said Sunday in a news release.

“Our office will continue to do everything possible to protect consumers and prevent potential theft of people’s social security numbers and sensitive personal information. From the beginning, Senator Rockefeller has been one of President Obama’s chief advocates of Obamacare. As Attorney General, my job is to protect consumers, ask questions, and ensure that no one is harmed during this implementation,” he said.

Morrisey and a dozen other state attorneys general sent a letter in August to the Department of Health and Human Services citing privacy concerns with the health insurance navigator plan. They argued that the rules fail to ensure that navigators will be adequately trained to protect private information, nor do they make clear who is responsible if an identity theft occurs.


Information from: The Charleston Gazette, http://www.wvgazette.com

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