Archive for Monday, October 14, 2013

Controversy surrounds Lawrence navigator for Affordable Care Act

October 14, 2013, 5:06 p.m. Updated October 14, 2013, 6:58 p.m.


A local outreach and enrollment worker for the Affordable Care Act has come under scrutiny after a national website published a story detailing her past legal problems Monday.

Those who oversee the navigator program are standing by the employee, Rosilyn Wells, and say she's trying to help others avoid the problems she had because of medical debt. Critics of Obamacare say the decision to hire someone with Wells' legal issues is emblematic of problems with the navigator program.

Rosilyn Wells

Rosilyn Wells

The conservative-leaning Daily Caller reported that Wells, who works at Heartland Community Health Center, had an outstanding arrest warrant to go with past financial problems. The story later headlined the popular Drudge Report website.

Wells was recently hired to be a full-time navigator to provide education about the Affordable Care Act — the 2010 health care law often referred to as Obamacare — and help enroll people in its health insurance marketplace. She is still being certified to do so. The navigator program is funded by the federal government to assist people with signing up for the new health insurance options in states that, like Kansas, declined to set up their own marketplaces.

Wells, 40, of Lawrence, has had a bench warrant out of Shawnee County for an unpaid civil court judgment. She also filed for bankruptcy in 2003 and had another small claims judgment against her in 2007.

"I've made financial mistakes," Well said Monday. "I've bounced a check. I've got unpaid debts now that I'm still working to pay. I'm a single mom now. I'm climbing out of that hole."

But she said that has never compromised her ability to handle someone else's personal information and that will continue to be the case going forward.

The warrant stemmed from $5,236.59 in unpaid debt Wells had accumulated at Stormont Vail HealthCare in Topeka, she said. Wells said the debt was the result of a hospital stay from when she was uninsured. She added that she wasn't aware of the warrant until the Daily Caller reporter contacted her, and she has since rectified the issue with the courts and the warrant is no longer active.

The article also stated that she had an outstanding tax bill of $1,700, though Wells said that claim was unfounded. A search of tax delinquencies on the Kansas Department of Revenue website didn't pull anything up for Wells.

Jon Stewart, chief executive officer of Heartland Community Health Center, said the irony of the situation is that Wells' legal problems were largely the result of medical debt, something she is now trying to help others avoid by assisting them in signing up for health insurance. Wells was up front about the debt issues during her interview with the clinic, Stewart said.

"It's pretty clear that Rosilyn Wells is a person who wants to help people who are in a situation like she's been in," he said.

Heartland and the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved, which oversees the navigator program in the state, both say they are looking into the situation but expressed confidence in their background check processes.

"Each navigator has passed a background check completed by a national company who specializes in this," KAMU said in a statement. "Our navigators have also completed extensive training that stressed the fact that information given to them cannot be stored or shared. We are confident that this practice will be followed, and consumers should feel safe with our navigator assistance." 

While navigators have access to personal information during the enrollment process, none of that data is to be saved or recorded, Stewart said. He said that since Wells has committed no felonies or "person-to-person crimes," he has no reason not to entrust her with that task. "What would Jesus do in a situation like this?" he added. "Part of our calling is that people deserve a second chance."

News of Wells' arrest warrant quickly spread across the Internet on Monday, with conservative politicians and pundits citing the case as another example of the ineffectiveness of the Affordable Care Act rollout. The law's implementation has been under intense criticism because the website has been beset with glitches and delays.

"The lead ObamaCare navigator in KS has outstanding arrest warrant. Trust her w/ ur IRS info. #ObamaCareFail," tweeted U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., on Monday. (Wells is not the lead navigator for the state of Kansas.)

Kevin Groenhagen, a Lawrence publisher who found record online of Wells' past legal trouble and forwarded the information to the Daily Caller reporter, said the story is another example of why the Affordable Care Act's implementation should have been delayed by a year.

Groenhagen, an opponent of Obamacare, said he found out about Wells' background while researching a book he is writing about the "socialist coalition," which he says includes groups like ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, and the Service Employees International Union. He said he had heard that former members of ACORN, a voter registration group that was dissolved in 2010 following controversy over whether employees were engaged in criminal activity, may be involved in the navigator program. After hearing about Wells, he Googled her name and found a newspaper article that referred to her 2007 bad check case.

"She may be a great person and as honest as they come, but I think, looking at that background, that does raise a lot of questions," said Groenhagen. He said his issues aren't with Wells personally but with the navigator program itself, which has been scrutinized by Republican members of Congress for not doing sufficient background checks. "If I had a financial advisor who I went to with all my financial information … with a warrant for his arrest and a problem with writing worthless checks, I would take my business somewhere else pretty quickly."

Wells asserted that she's simply an "easy target" for people trying to discredit the health care law.

"It's certainly easy to make me look terrible with a few pieces of information that you can twist and turn," she said. "But I'm not a horrible person. I'm in this for the right reason. There are lots of people who are just like me, who have had financial hardship or struggles or didn't have health insurance. My job is to help people who are no different than me."


Chelsea Kapfer 4 years, 8 months ago

This article saddens me. Just because someone has some financial problems in their life does not disqualify them for a job. I, like many others, have fallen behind on bills for whatever reason. Life is hard, especially as a single mom! Let her make her living and raise her family. Certainly there are more important issues at hand than this womans personal financial problems.

Seth Peterson 4 years, 8 months ago

Considering you've never made a post with factual content in it. . .

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 8 months ago

Am I understanding this right? She wrote a check for the amount she owned at the hospital and it bounced? Would not that amount be a felony? Would not it have been better for her to explain to them why she could not pay and set up a payment plan?

I believe that if anyone else had a wrote a fraudulent check for this amount they would now be in prison. One more example of my confusion in how the law is enforced.

Frank McGuinness 4 years, 8 months ago

"I'm for health-care reform, but it has to be done right" Kevin, While you may support health care reform the problem is that your party or parties have either thwarted the attempts at past reform (see Bill Clinton) or avoided them entirely (See George W Bush and H.W., Reagan) even when they had the all 3 branches of gov't and the ability to pass reform. Healthcare in the hands of conservatives would likely be kicked down the road for another century if left up to them or never addressed at all. Fortunately for Americans, President Obama took on the status quo and delivered. Is it perfect or will it be, not hardly. So you can complain all you like about the ACA but you have had your opportunities to make it "your" way and that time has passed. At this juncture not only is it the law of the land but as time goes on more and more Americans find themselves happy with portions or a majority of the law and its repeal is not only unlikely but in a decade or less it will be untouchable like Social Security or Medicare.

Paul R Getto 4 years, 8 months ago

Verbal "sluggouts?" LOL. Groanie will next challenge you to a bar fight. He's worried about his legacy, I guess. Ignore the trolls, even when they name themselves,

Frank McGuinness 4 years, 8 months ago

Well For one, they at a minimum had opportunities to address the issue and failed to do so. Also both democrats and republicans support the repeal of preexisting conditions, extending the age to 26 for youth, exchange marketplace and other important parts of the law so I doubt Democrats would have blocked a bill containing those portions. Actually the primary part that Republicans dislike is the individual mandate so its wholly incorrect to think that democrats would have blocked a bill containing the previous portions I listed.

Comparing the approval of Slavery laws to giving someone healthcare isn't even a debatable topic.

While Medicare or Social Security may be unsustainable the ACA has already reduced our budget deficit and those savings are even used in GOP sponsored bills at the same time they attempt to repeal the bill.

Bob Forer 4 years, 8 months ago

Kevin, please explain to me why in the world you would pick on a person you probably haven't even met and embarrass them publically to attempt to prove a poltiical position. All of us are human beings and make mistakes in our lives. The private financial affairs of one individual has abolutely no bearing on an issue affecting the entire country. Have you no decency?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

This whole mess probably developed through the Sam Brownback family of unethical politicians in an effort to further complicate signing up for Obamacre in Kansas.

Why would the Daily Caller or Slade have any reason to be following any history on this person? This is outrageous and unacceptable behavior.

I say people from the Sam Brownback family of unethical politicians created this unfortunate mess for this person.

The unethical spot light should be focused on the Sam Brownback and Kobach 24/7. Look at how the national GOP behaves and we know Sam Brownback is from Washington,D.C.

If the GOP can't win the issues which is often they go for character assassination no matter what.

Fire the Sam Brownback administration! Kansas cannot afford a republican administration!

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

Leave this person alone. Let her get back to work!

John Graham 4 years, 8 months ago

Ms. Wells stated she was unaware of the warrant until contacted by the reporter. If you review the information from the Shawnee County Court it is quite clear she is not telling the truth. Many jobs I have had required me to list any legal issues I had in the present or past. Failure to document such information would be grounds for termination. Yes her issues were with personal finances that she was apparently unable to manage, I think such information is pertinent to a job that involves helping the public with healthcare financial issues. I am not saying she would steal, but if she is unable to manage her own financial affairs what makes us think she would do any better when managing others healthcare financial matters?

John Graham 4 years, 8 months ago

Click on the highlighted $5236.59 dollar amount in the article where it mentions the warrant. It will take you to info about the Shawnee County Court case. Read it. She posted $50 bond in 7/12 and $100 bond in 8/12. So clearly she knew of this issue.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

Cut the political back stabbing and character assassination of this person. Clearly she wants to work and needs the money. I'm not sure why the LJW thought this to be newsworthy.

Dirty politics straight from the Brownback camp..... the bottom line.

Leave this person alone. Let her get back to work!

Why would the Daily Caller or Slade have any reason to be following any history on this person? This is outrageous and unacceptable behavior. There was no reason and only because some right wing Obamacare haters thought it best to smear this person...... talk about low down and dirty.

John Graham 4 years, 8 months ago

There is no character assassination. The statements in the article are facts found on public records.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

You want mis-information? Slade and Daily Caller are two reliable sources 24/7.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

None of this was or is necessary. She was hired to do a job simple as that. Once this was presented in the public chat board and newspapers it becomes character assassination. This is none of the public's business simple as that.

It is a tool to get in the way of Obamacare which is part of the Brownback, ALEC and Tea Party platform. The right wing of Kansas is against Obamacare coming to Kansas. This faction is also against Medicaid,Medicare and Social Security Insurance.

This faction is also against Public Education.

Rosilyn Wells was hired to do a job. Let her do her job and feed her family. The people who hired Rosilyn Wells were pleased with her qualifications so let this woman get on with it.

Obamacare is for Kansas consumers which offers better coverage and consumer protection than the previous status quo by a long shot.

John Graham 4 years, 8 months ago

While I have written against hiring navigators without background checks, I am NOT as you suggest against public education, social security, Medicaid or medicare. I am not a member of the tea party, ALEC, or a fan of Brownback. Just because someone has an opinion on one issue does not mean you can pigeon hole them on all topics.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

Talk about a mess. How about this grand scheme which is likely outright fraud?

Health insurers have forced consumers to pay billions of dollars in medical bills that the insurers themselves should have paid, according to a report released yesterday by the staff of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Insurers make paperwork confusing because "they realize that people will just simply give up and not pursue it" if they think they have been shortchanged, Potter said.

More on this story:

The country needs more federal regulators to keep an eye on this industry.

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