Texas joins a long list of states with growing friction over extensive rules for Affordable Care Act navigators, as state Democrats there have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to rein in the scrutiny they face, which they say is intended only to limit Obamacare’s adoption.
Proposed rules for the Texas Department of Insurance will require those who help people enroll the uninsured to undergo an additional 40 hours of training along with the 20 to 30 hours required by federal law, which would cover privacy and ethics, reports the San Antonio Express-News. Opinions on the rules are drawn down party lines with state Democrats seeing them as another way to stonewall Obamacare in Texas while Republicans claim this will fight fraud and abuse. State lawmakers have previously complained that in the “current system [of navigators] lacks a mechanism, like a searchable database, by which consumers could verify the identities of workers claiming to be navigators. No fingerprints, pictures or photocopies of driver’s licenses are taken in the process of validating navigators,” reported the Texas Tribune.
Texas politicians have made no effort to hide their disdain for the ACA with Senator Ted Cruz making headlines for his effort to defund the federal program. However, this is also not the first time that questions have be brought up regarding the navigators and their training. Prior to the start of open enrollment on October 1, 2013, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services developed an interagency initiative to prevent fraud in the marketplaces, wrote Carrie Roll of Mintz Levin, which she noted was
… announced amid the release of a report by the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform (Report) that identified significant fraud and abuse risks associated with the navigator and in-person assistance programs, which are designed to help consumers enroll in the Marketplace. Among other shortcomings, the Report found a substantial risk of consumer fraud due to the Obama Administration’s failure to require background checks and fingerprinting of individuals hired by navigator and assister organizations. The Report also noted that there is no mechanism in place for consumers to determine if navigators and assisters are legitimate.
On October 16, Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) sent a letter to HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson requesting a copy of HHS’ security control assessment of the federal data hub. Reps. Black and Meehan’s letter seemed especially concerned with cybersecurity safeguards and the background checks of the Navigator program.
Other states have also instituted their own requirements for navigators before the ACA rollout, including Georgia, Nevada and Utah, reported the USA Today. A Tennessee law fining navigators for offering advice was struck down last fall by a federal judge and a navigator licensing law in Missouri is also being challenged.
Texas’ proposed rules will not take effect until March 1.