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Texas Still Battling Feds On ACA Navigator Rules

David Martin Davies
TPR News

The author of a bill that was to make it easier for Affordable Care Act navigators says Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Department of Insurance are using his legislation to impede the process.

This week Texas Department of Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius addressing her department’s concerns regarding the federal navigator program. Those concerns began with a stakeholder meeting, but state Rep. Rep. Chris Turner, D-Fort Worth, said the TDI did not provide enough public notice about meeting or the rule-making process.

"Those who are most impacted -- community-based nonprofit organization and local and county governmental agencies --  I can’t believe would have the capacity to fully participate in this hearing," Turner said.

Texas Impact’s Bea Morehead said they are one of the groups that would be affected by this rule-making process.

"We do have concerns about the process the agency is taking in implementing the SB 1795," Morehead said.

TDI held the meeting regarding additional training, background checks and state licenses for navigators one day before the marketplace opened.

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, authored the bill that allows the state to implement these regulations  but said the Texas Department of Insurance and the governor are misusing his bill.

"It is to protect consumers and allow them to have health care but not be a barrier to health care," Watson said. "It is one thing to wrap one’s self in the cloak of 'I’m just trying to do right,' but if you are going to do right, follow the law."

Watson sent Sebelius a letter this week outlining what he said is the real purpose behind the additional requirements for navigators of the federal health exchange.

TDI officials say they have not yet begun the formal rule making for the navigator program, nor have they determined when that will occur.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.