Feds apparently have faith in Tennessee nonprofit with sketchy history

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

MEMPHIS — The federal government is apparently OK with a nonprofit hired to carry out Obamacare navigator duties in Tennessee — despite the nonprofit’s sketchy history.

Federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services spokesman Richard Olague, in response to Tennessee Watchdog’s questions about Seedco, seemed to indicate in an email his agency is comfortable with the nonprofit’s work.

Tennessee Watchdog specifically asked Olague what federal officials are doing to make sure Seedco is acting honestly and with integrity while carrying out its duties under Obamacare?

Tennessee Watchdog also wanted to know what the federal government is doing to ensure Seedco is a good steward of taxpayer money while in Tennessee.

“CMS conducts a rigorous application and selection process for all grantees, including a review of the group’s ability to comply with privacy and security standards,” Olague said.

GOT TO HAVE FAITH: A nonprofit with a sketchy history has the federal government’s faith in carrying out Obamacare duties.

“All assistors will follow strict privacy and security rules, just like Medicare counselors have done for years.”

As Tennessee Watchdog has previously reported, the federal government awarded Seedco a $1.2 million contract to sign people up for Obamacare.

Certain Memphis residents participating in Temporary Assistance For Needy Families falsified paperwork and wrongly received almost $30,000 in taxpayer money through a Seedco subcontractor last year, according to state Comptroller Justin Wilson.

According to the New York Post, the federal government sued Seedco for faking at least 1,400 of 6,500 job placements under a $22.2 million federally funded contract with New York City.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen has scheduled a Jan. 20 event to teach Memphis residents about Obamacare, and Seedco representatives will partner in the event.

Cohen’s official spokesman, Ben Garmissa, did not respond to Tennessee Watchdog’s request for comment, nor did anyone from Seedco.

Jonathan Donald, a staffer in Cohen’s office, however, told Tennessee Watchdog that organizers will explain to the public how to apply for Obamacare benefits and how to navigate the system.

Kate Abernathy, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, which requires that Obamacare navigators register with the state, said the federal HHS has the authority over navigators.

As previously reported, Seedco Mid-South Senior Vice President Lisa Pote introduced U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at an event to promote Obamacare in Memphis in November.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org. or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

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