Critics question proposed regulations for healthcare navigators

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act and its navigators, who are responsible for helping Texans sign up for health insurance, criticized proposals for additional regulation during a Texas Department of Insurance hearing Friday.

Political pressure from state leaders, the cost of additional training and the broad definition of navigators by the state were among the top concerns raised by lawmakers, representatives of health service providers and community organizations.

The Insurance Department proposed rules this month that would require navigators to undergo criminal background checks and comply with additional privacy and Texas Medicaid training and would prohibit conflicts of interest.

“These rules, for the most part, do not appear they are aimed at protecting consumers,” said state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie. “Rather, they seem clearly intended to make a political statement.”

The federal government awarded almost $11 million to organizations in Texas charged with hiring and training navigators to help individuals sign up for health insurance through a federal marketplace.

The Health and Human Services Department already requires navigators to complete 20 to 30 hours of training and to pass a certification test.

Gov. Rick Perry, who staunchly opposes the healthcare law, requested the additional rules in September, citing consumer privacy concerns. Other Republican leaders, including Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott, also called for additional regulation of navigators and for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.