MoCo Pays Casa de Maryland $951,000 to Provide Obamacare Navigators

A group known for assisting illegal immigrants received nearly one million in taxpayer dollars to provide enrollment and outreach services for Maryland’s Obamacare exchange.
Casa de Maryland applied for and received a $951,000 contract from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services to participate in the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange’s Connector Program.  The contract is one piece of an overall $7 million grant award from the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange to Montgomery County.
Casa de Maryland has history of assisting illegal immigrants avoid deportation, opposed local law enforcement agencies enforcing immigration laws, and lobbied for Maryland’s new two-tiered drivers license system, which allows the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.  
Casa de Maryland has a network of welcome/day laborer centers in Baltimore City, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County.  The organization received over $1.8 million in state aid between 2010-2011, according to the Maryland Funding and Accountability website.
The Patient Protection/Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—specifically prohibits illegal immigrants from enrolling in exchange-based insurance or Medicaid.  Maryland health officials consistently count illegal immigrants in the total number of uninsured in the state.  According to Maryland Reporter, the total number of uninsured ranges between 750,000-800,00, with illegal immigrants making up 40 percent of that number between 270,000-300,000. 
Casa de Maryland’s history is cause for concern for some. Brad Botwin, Director of Help Save Maryland, a group opposed to illegal immigration, says he is not surprised that Montgomery County would reach out to Casa de Maryland to provide navigators.  “Montgomery County has a history of working closely with Casa as as two current County Council members are former Casa Board members.” Botwin said.
Given Casa’s record of attracting and sustaining Hispanic illegal immigrants into the county and greater Maryland, Botwin said the organization will do, “an excellent job” assisting illegal immigrants sign up for Maryland’s Obamacare Exchange.   “This nearly million dollar contract will become another magnet for attracting additional Hispanic illegal immigrants to setup shop in Maryland for the smorgasbord of programs and social services available.”
Maryland Health Benefit Exchange spokesperson, Elizabeth Charlow, said, “The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange is in full compliance with federal law, which has clear requirements for verifying the immigration status of Marketplace and Medicaid applicants.”
Charlow said the exchange must send any information on immigration status provided by the applicants to a federal data services hub.  That hub in turn checks that information against citizenship data within the Department of Homeland Security.  That information is then returned to the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.
“Our navigators do not play any direct role in evaluating the immigration status of applicants,” Charlow said. “They merely pass on any information to the Department of Homeland Security that has been provided by an applicant.”
Charlow did not respond to a follow up question asking about how the exchange verifies immigration status if no information is provided.
Casa de Maryland’s contract stipulates they must enroll 7,409 uninsured individuals in the “Capital Region.”  According, to the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange website, 3,100 people have enrolled in some form of insurance as of October 25th.  The site does not detail how many people signed up for plans through private insurers or enrolled in Medicaid.
The contract also includes an incentive bonus of up to of up to $457,000, whether or not individuals who sign up obtain coverage through the connector.

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