Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is defending his actions after Sen. Jay Rockefeller accused of him of intimidating a nonprofit that later declined a federal grant meant to help West Virginians sign up for health plans under the Affordable Care Act.
"President Obama and Senator Rockefeller have joined together from the beginning to push Obamacare on West Virginians," Morrisey said in a statement Sunday. "Now, they expect consumers to blindly sit by and trust their rushed implementation efforts."
At issue are so-called "navigators," organizations that will help residents make sense of the new, online health insurance marketplaces that go into effect Oct. 1. Morrisey has argued these organizations shouldn't be trusted with things like Social Security numbers and tax documents.
He directed one such group, West Virginia Parent Training and Information Inc., to answer some 26 questions regarding personnel training and other items, according to a story in the Sunday Gazette-Mail. The same day, he filed a Freedom of Information Act request with federal officials for a copy of the nonprofit's application with the navigator grant program.
Pat Haberbosch, the nonprofit's executive director, did not respond to Morrisey's letter, but West Virginia Parent Training and Information Inc. would later withdraw its application. Haberbosch hasn't elaborated as to why.
Rockefeller called for Morrisey's actions to be investigated.
"Our attorney general, who hates all of this Affordable Health Care Act, has intimidated one of the groups, so they've withdrawn, and it's really something that should be investigated," the senator was quoted as saying in the Sunday Gazette-Mail piece.
Morrisey, who has repeatedly called for the repeal of the federal health care overhaul, said his actions were appropriate.
"Why is Senator Rockefeller so convinced that these Obamacare navigators — many of whom are seasonal workers, without a background in health insurance — will understand thousands and thousands of pages of regulations in a few weeks after only 20 mandatory hours of online training?" the statement said.
"Why move forward with this navigator program before it is fully vetted . . . How will the public know the difference between an Obamacare navigator and a scammer?"
Perry Bryant, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, has said his organization, which is based in Charleston, may be interested in applying for the grant funds now that West Virginia Parent Training and Information Inc. has withdrawn.