Advocates for Obamacare Urge Texas to Delay Rules for Insurance Helpers
Advocates for the poor and Democratic lawmakers urged the state Monday not to issue rules on health “navigators” unless federal safeguards fail to protect Texas consumers.
Senate Democratic leader Kirk Watson of Austin said it would be premature for the Texas Department of Insurance to weigh in. A state health insurance marketplace opens Tuesday, as provided under the federal health care overhaul.
The federal government is running the online marketplace, after Texas declined to do so. Navigators are employees of nonprofit groups that obtained federal grants. They will counsel people who want to explore their coverage options.
“Unfortunately, this issue has become a political football,” Watson said of navigator rules. “Let us not twist and contort and politicize the meaning of protecting consumers.”
Gov. Rick Perry wants the Insurance Department to impose stricter rules on navigators.
Perry wants navigators to take 40 hours of state-prescribed course work, in addition to the 20 hours federal officials require. He also wants periodic background checks, including use of fingerprints.
Navigators might learn a marketplace customer’s birth date or Social Security number, said Perry spokesman Josh Havens.