Mainstream media outlets are gunning for states, like Florida, with consumer protection laws aimed at regulating Obamacare “navigators.”
What are navigators? The Washington Post describes them as a taxpayer-funded workforce of tens of thousands deployed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to assist people in signing up for insurance.
With enrollment in state health insurance exchanges set to begin Oct. 1, the media refrain is getting louder. Here are a few recent examples. See a pattern?
Washington Post: States find new ways to resist health laws
Bloomberg News: State laws hinder Obamacare effort to enroll uninsured
The Atlantic Wire: States using laws, not threats, to block Obamacare
Huffington Post: Obamacare navigators draw state scrutiny
Offending states are often referred to as “Republican-led,” including Florida. Politics aside, Florida’s navigator restrictions hardly seem onerous enough to resist, hinder or outright block Obamacare.
In fact, they appear to be reasonable.
Florida Watchdog contacted the state Office of Insurance Regulation and the state Department of Financial Regulation to find out exactly what the navigator restrictions entail.
Both agencies referred us to Chapter 626 of the Florida Statutes.
Accordingly, anyone purporting to act as a navigator must first register with DFS. An applicant must be at least 18 years old, be a U.S. citizen or legal alien, pay a $50 processing fee and state whether they’ve been denied a financial services license in the past.
Applicants must also submit to fingerprinting and background checks, standard for equivalent state-level jobs involving sensitive health and financial consumer information. Convicted felons are barred from becoming navigators.
Navigators are required to complete federally defined training programs that were recently dropped to only 20 hours.
Finally, navigators can only assist those looking to sign up for insurance. They cannot solicit, negotiate or sell insurance unless they have a standard license to do so. They cannot receive payment from an interested third party.
The Washington Post seized on the licensing provision and reported it this way: “More than a dozen states have imposed licensing rules and limits on these helpers.”
But the provision more accurately protects consumers from product misinformation and is similar in practice to the registering of voters without telling them who to vote for.
HHS has committed $67 million to the navigator program nationwide, $7.8 million of which went to Florida.
Any attempts to restrain Obamacare navigators should indeed be weighed against suppressing participation in Florida’s insurance exchange, but that doesn’t appear to be a problem. Florida’s lawmakers readily concede that HHS rulemaking preempts state law — something the national media fails to mention.
Published with permission from Watchdog.org.
Contact William Patrick at [email protected]