State’s Obamacare ‘navigator’ rules protested by legislator

A Tennessee lawmaker is crying foul over emergency rules being drafted by the state to bring more scrutiny to the guides helping people sign up for new insurance under Obamacare, reports the Chattanooga Times-Free Presss. Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, says the rules are a last-minute attempt to obstruct the health law in the state.

But state officials say the rules, proposed weeks before new insurance marketplaces go live, are crucial to protect consumers from “bad actors” who may try to abuse the law to access people’s medical information.

Under the proposed rules, “navigators” — state-approved guides trained to sign people up for private health insurance through new federally-run online marketplaces — will have to go through a registration process that will include a criminal background check and a $35 fee, according to the state Department of Commerce and Insurance, which drafted the rules.

…“This is just another obstacle in trying to get people signed up on insurance,” she said. “[Gov. Bill Haslam] has already chosen not to expand Medicaid. He already rejected running a state exchange. Why on earth do they have to do this now? I am sick about it.”

State officials say the proposed rules for are a necessary part of their “due diligence” to protect consumers.

“These individuals are going to be in our communities, acquiring sensitive information,” said Katelyn Abernathy, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, which has drafted the emergency rules. “It would be very remiss of the state government to not protect our consumers. …This is very low barrier registration process.”

Other Republican-leaning states have demanded closer scrutiny of these Affordable Care Act workers.

Georgia’s Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens has said he will require navigators to pass a test that is basically the same as an insurance broker’s test —even though federal law says navigators are not brokers.

…The rules are currently being drafted and reviewed and will need to be approved by the attorney general’s office, said Abernathy.