Founded in March 2010, Enroll America (EA) describes itself as a “nonpartisan” 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to “maximize the number of uninsured Americans who enroll in health coverage made available by the Affordable Care Act,” more popularly known as “Obamacare.” Toward that end, EA works to: help the uninsured gain awareness of their various enrollment options; broaden the range of channels through which uninsured individuals can enroll; and help the federal and state governments adopt “streamlined and user-friendly enrollment policies, procedures, and practices.” EA is a collaborative organization, working with partners that span the gamut of health coverage stakeholders—health insurers, hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, employers, consumer groups, faith-based organizations, civic organizations, and philanthropies.
EA’s founder and chairman, Ronald F. Pollack, is also the executive director of Families USA, a healthcare advocacy group that strongly supports the domestic agendas of President Barack Obama. In the late 1990s, Pollack worked on Bill Clinton‘s Presidential Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry. In EA’s early days, Pollack vowed that the organization would be run like a “political campaign.”
EA’s president, Anne Filipic, was a senior staffer with the Obama For America campaign in 2008. She later served as deputy executive director of the Democratic National Committee; as an Obama White House official under Valerie Jarrett; as an aide to Health & Human Services (HHS) director Kathleen Sebelius; and as deputy director of President Obama’s Office of Public Engagement, where she networked with community organizers.
Enroll America is a prime beneficiary of an Obamacare stipulation that provides millions of dollars in grants to hire—at rates as high as $48 per hour—community activists and organizers to serve as “navigators” who help individuals enroll in health-insurance plans provided by state or federal exchanges. The healthcare law specifies that these “navigators” must be attuned to the racial, ethnic and cultural sensitivities of “underserved communities”—a requirement which, by the calculus of the Obama administration, is best fulfilled by activists who embrace identity politics.
In the spring of 2013, as Obamacare was starting to be implemented in a piecemeal fashion, numerous analysts predicted that tens of thousands of such activists would be hired as navigators in the coming months. As one health expert with close ties to HHS put it: “The navigator program, as evidenced by the leadership of Enroll America …, will be a jobs program for unemployable Obama For America [the precursor to Organizing For Action and Organizing For America] campaign volunteers and ACORN remnants.” EA president Anne Filipic, for her part, expected her organization to spend some $100 million—much of which would be federal money—on the enrollment effort.
Also in the spring of 2013, controversy was sparked by reports that the EA-affiliated navigators who were helping people fill out healthcare application forms, were simultaneously presenting those applicants with voter-registration forms. As healthcare policy expert Betsy McCaughey puts it, they were using the healthcare enrollment process as a vehicle to “steer the uninsured into the Democratic Party.” Louisiana Congressman Charles Boustany sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, complaining that this practice “could lead some to think [that] voter registration is somehow tied to [healthcare] subsidy eligibility.”
Equally controversial was the revelation, in May 2013, that Kathleen Sebelius had been actively soliciting, on Enroll America’s behalf, large financial donations from companies in the healthcare field as well as patient advocacy groups, churches, and other charitable organizations—all to help EA’s effort to implement Obamacare.
To create a media campaign that would promote Obamacare to the American public as effectively as possible, EA hired Lake Research, a political strategy firm which has also been commissioned for message-management by such high-profile organizations as ACORN, MoveOn.org, and the National Council of La Raza, as well as by 39 members of Congress, all Democrats.
In late November 2013, EA announced that it was severing all ties to its state communications lead, Christopher Tarango, when the latter was caught illegally engaging in covert political activity—which members of 501(c)(3) nonprofits are barred from doing. Specifically, Tarango had conspired to provide a list of potential Obamacare enrollees—obtained via the “commit cards” that EA was distributing door-to-door to help people select health-insurance plans—to an undercover investigator with James O’Keefe of Project Veritas, who was posing as the representative of a political action committee.
EA and its operatives have repeatedly characterized their organization as “purely nonprofit,… not partisan, [and] non-political.” But as journalist John Fund reported, when EA employee Brian Pendleton was introduced at a November 2013 speaking engagement, EA was called “the official group for the DNC [Democratic National Committee].” Further, Fund quoted investigative journalist James O’Keefe as saying that EA “appears to be sharing data and working directly with an explicitly political group called Battleground Texas [which is dedicated to turning Texas into a Democrat-majority state], activities that [O’Keefe] notes ‘are prohibited unless certain conditions are met.’”
In March 2014—on the heels of President Obama’s assurance that “none of the information that is provided [in health insurance application process] … is, in any way, transferred to Immigration services—the Mexican government’s consular office in Brownsville, Texas hosted an Obamacare enrollment fair. Enroll America had a major presence at this event. According to EA field organizer Jose Medrano, 101 families were represented at the fair, and roughly three fifths of the representatives spoke with a healthcare counselor. The consular office, explained Medrano, was seeking to help the families make a “transition” to “mainstream … America.” The following week, Medrano told Breitbart News: “Whether they’re Mexican nationals or whether they’re United States citizens or whether they’re in transition—and if they’re there [at an Obamacare event] it is our [EA’s] responsibility within all of America to educate on the Affordable Care Act.”
Stephen Miller, a spokesman for Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), stated:
“Promoting Obamacare at a Mexican consulate raises three major policy concerns. One, the possibility that illegal immigrants could fraudulently access federal subsidies; two, that such promotions provide a financial inducement to unlawfully enter the U.S. (or overstay a visa) by offering households headed by illegal immigrants federal subsidies through their legal relatives or dependents; and three, that these activities widen an existing flaw in our legal admissions process by continuing to subvert the principle that those seeking to lawfully enter the US should be financially self-sufficient.”
EA’s advisory council is composed of more than 50 organizations, including the AARP, Health Care for America Now, MomsRising, the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, the National Urban League, Planned Parenthood, the Service Employees International Union, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and the Young Invincibles.