Lawsuit challenges TN health care navigator rules

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A health care advocacy group is suing to halt emergency rules enacted in Tennessee to require background checks for people giving advice on new insurance marketplaces going into effect next week.

The lawsuit was filed Friday on behalf of the League of Women Voters and several individuals by the Tennessee Justice Center.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has defended the background checks as a way to prevent scams and identity theft in a process that involves divulging personal information.

The lawsuit argues that the rules are overly broad because they apply not just to designated “navigators,” but to anyone who might give advice on health insurance — which could include family, clergy, civic organizations or other acquaintances and advisers.

The rules authorize a fine of $1,000 per violation.

The Tennessean’s report has considerably more detail, including the commissioner defending the rules:

“Our focus is on protecting Tennesseans and taking reasonable and responsible steps to provide consumer safeguards,” said Julie McPeak, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. “The emergency rules filed on September 20, 2013, require those individuals who will be accessing Tennesseans most sensitive personal financial and medical information to have been subject to a criminal background check as mandated by Tennessee Public Chapter 377. These rules are those reasonable and responsible steps.”

She said Gary Cohen, a top official with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, testified to a congressional committee the day before Tennessee released the rules that the federal government did not require background checks and that states could impose the requirement.

The Tennessee legislature earlier this year authorized the state agency to establish the rules.
“Public Chapter 377 was passed by a nearly unanimous bi-partisan vote of 28-1 in the Senate and 87-0 in the House of Representatives and it is our responsibility to faithfully implement the law,” McPeak said.

And here’s the list of plaintiffs in the lawsuit:

• League of Women Voters of Tennessee, which has volunteer counselors who want to assist in signing people up for health coverage.

• Allison Cavopol, a manager seeking advice on coverage options for employees from someone other than an insurance salesperson.

• Carol Coppinger, the mother of a disabled adult child, who needs assistance getting insurance for him because she does not have access to the Internet.

• Samuel Shirley, who is Coppinger’s son.

• The Rev. Jerry Crisp, the pastor of a rural church in Whiteville, where congregation members planned to help people sign up.
• Dr. Tom John, a physician who is concerned the rules prevent him from giving his patients advice.

• Terrell McDaniel, a Ph.D. psychologist, who was considering becoming a health law counselor.

• Brian Paddock, a lawyer whose practice includes advising clients about taxes and health subsidy programs.

• Randall Rice and Meryl Rice, retirees and community volunteers who sought to become federally certified counselors but could not receive the training because of concerns over the state emergency rules.

• The Rev. James Thomas, pastor of Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, whose members have been planning to assist people in signing up for coverage and which plans to host a citywide kickoff toward that effort on Tuesday.