(WREG-TV) We’ve uncovered new problems connected to an agency trying to help sign up the uninsured up for the Affordable Care Act.
And this time, it’s not because of the problem plagued website.
The federal government gave one group more than a million dollars to do the job in Tennessee, but we learned the same group lied to the feds about getting people jobs months earlier.
The non-profit Seedco got $1.2 million to help people find and buy the best health insurance available. I found out why it could be a questionable sale.
This is one place you can sign up for health insurance in Shelby County, but so far no one has come through the door at the Seedco office in downtown Memphis and actually enrolled.
Instead, navigators here spend their days taking hundreds of calls.
“What is this thing? What does it mean for me? What’s the process like. It’s almost as if we’ve been handed something so complicated none of us can really understand it, so that is going to take time,” Seedco director Lisa Pote said.
She also said the other challenge they’re dealing with is the now infamous website, Healthcare.gov.
“You can’t do it if it’s not working.”
The federal government gave Seedco $1.2 million to help people in Tennessee work through the system, but WREG uncovered that just eight months before it received the federal grant, Seedco was sued by the federal government.
According to a settlement agreement obtained by News Channel 3, Seedco admitted to falsely saying it found jobs for hundreds of New Yorkers.
Last December’s deal ordered the non-profit to pay back $1.7 million to the federal government.
Then in August, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Seedco was getting millions from the government to be navigators of health care reform in Georgia, Maryland and Tennessee.
WREG tried to ask HHS why it approved the grant; we were denied an interview, and even hung up on during a media conference call.
HHS did give this statement:
“Along with its grant application, Seedco attached a document which illustrated Seedco’s strong commitment to program integrity. Since 2011, Seedco has taken swift and thorough action to safeguard against fraud, and has instituted significant staffing, policy and programmatic changes across the organization.”
“I get asked that question all the time,” Pote said.
She added her agency made major changes and is a good steward of taxpayer dollars.
“I think that Seedco is in a better position than any other non-profit to take on this work because of what happened with us,” she said.
Pote says her agency is stronger since the fraud investigation.
“Managing federal funds, it’s a huge responsibility and we have other federally-funded programs and we know how to manage them with integrity we do everything we can to do that.”
She calls the New York case an isolated incident. The people involved were fired.
As part of the settlement, Seedco was ordered to institute a compliance program, create an internal fraud hotline and hire an independent consultant to conduct annual reviews of the compliance program.
“Our ubur-process, our uber-compliance processes in place now, I would stand them up against anybody at this point,” Pote said.
Friday, Seedco will be holding an event to sign people up for healthcare at the library.
Secretary Sebelius is expected to be on hand.
We will continue searching for answers.