The Brief: Texas Political News for Dec. 17, 2013

Jill Ramirez, the director of outreach for the Latino Healthcare Forum, passes out flyers and explains components of the Affordable Care Act on Oct. 5, 2013.
Jill Ramirez, the director of outreach for the Latino Healthcare Forum, passes out flyers and explains components of the Affordable Care Act on Oct. 5, 2013.

The Big Conversation

California Republican Darrell Issa supplemented a report critical of the health care navigator program with a field hearing in Texas on Monday to further explore those criticisms with a panel tilted heavily toward GOP members.

With the panel consisting of five Republicans and one Democrat, there was little doubt as to how the day would develop. The choice of venue — the North Texas town of Richardson — was by no means accidental. As KDFW-TV reported, the hearing was chosen for Richardson because of the undercover videos shot in North Texas by the conservative activist group Project Veritas that showed health care applicants being encouraged to lie about the information they submitted, such as underreporting income.

The hearing and report today focused to a large degree on other alleged shortcomings of the navigators. That included complaints, as reported by UPI, that they haven't done enough to secure sensitive personal information like health information, Social Security numbers and other tax information.

Although outnumbered today, the lone Democrat on the panel, Marc Veasey of Fort Worth, defended the navigator program by saying those caught on tape represented an isolated example. He added that congressional overseers would be better off looking at why Texas Gov. Rick Perry refused to expand the Medicaid program as provided in the Affordable Care Act.

Another progressive organization, the Texas Organizing Project, complained that navigators who asked to testify at the field hearing were denied the opportunity.

Culled

•    Texas congressmen take aim at Affordable Care Act’s navigators (The Dallas Morning News): "Four Texas congressmen took aim Monday at the federally paid navigators who are helping Texans access insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Their criticism came during an unusual 'field hearing' by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform."

•    Teen’s probationary sentence prompts Tarrant DA to push for changes (Fort Worth Star-Telegram): "Officials with the Tarrant County district attorney’s office are pushing legislators to make changes in the Texas juvenile justice system after a Keller teen was given probation for a horrific drunken-driving crash that killed four. ... 'We have already been in contact with State Representative Charlie Geren, who is eager to assist us in this endeavor. It is premature to discuss specifics at this time.'”

•    Corsicana lockup to be emptied this week, but will remain open (Austin American-Statesman): "Nearly two months after top state officials stalled its planned closure, a Corsicana lockup for teen-aged lawbreakers with mental problems has been ordered emptied by week’s end, officials confirmed Monday. But Jim Hurley, a spokesman for the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, said the fact that the Corsicana Residential Treatment Center will no longer house youths after Friday does not mean that the lockup is being closed, as the Legislature had planned."

•    Houston vows speedy enforcement of proposed loan rules (Houston Chronicle): "But, taking a lesson from Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso and several smaller cities, City Attorney David Feldman and other local officials say Houston will have a plan to enforce the ordinance up front, rather than tripping through a rollout months after the new rules become law. To varying degrees, officials in those cities accept that critique."

•    Civil Rights Group Calls Out Voter Registration Process (The Texas Tribune): "A combination of lax enforcement in the state’s election code, a faulty voter registration system and lack of leadership by state election officials have led to the disenfranchisement of thousands of Texans who faced challenges while registering to vote in the 2012 elections, according to a report the Texas Civil Rights Project released on Monday."

Quote to Note: “You need to watch more Fox, I’m afraid.” — House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., suggesting to a regional Medicaid administrator where to get more information on problems with the health care navigator program

Must-Read

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.