“Would You Like to Register to Vote?” Should This Question Appear on ACA’s New Federal Health Insurance Application?

Yesterday, Charles W. Boustany, JR, MD, the Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight wrote to the Honorable Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (Dept. of HHS), inquiring about the draft application for health insurance under the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Specifically, the letter calls into question the application where it asks, “Would you like to register to vote?” The online application is 61 pages long and applies to applicants seeking federally subsidized health insurance or Medicaid. Boustany states that nowhere in the ACA is voter registration mentioned, nor does the law give the Dept. of HHS an interest in whether individuals choose to vote. Boustany mentioned in a press release accompanying the letter, concerns that political organizations could be encouraging people to register to vote. The press release noted that because many of these online applications will be administered by “navigators,” which may include politically active tax-exempt organizations such as Families USA, AARP, or associations like the now-defunct ACORN, questions as to why the Dept. of HHS is gathering voter information, and exactly how the agency intends to use this information, and further how the information could be potentially used by the “navigators,” needs to be clarified. Boustany’s letter requests the following response from Sebelius: (1) provide the most recent draft for the exchange applications; (2) provide the titles of any officials responsible for approving the applications; (3) detail the provisions of the ACA that authorize the department to collect voter information; and (4) provide information as to whether “navigators” would be encouraged to ask applicants for their voting status. A copy of the letter is available here.

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