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Congressional Democrats Ask Holder to Stop State Navigator Rules

Several Texas congressional Democrats have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to initiate legal proceedings against the Texas Department of Insurance to stop the implementation of state rules on the federal navigator program.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaking at the University of Texas LBJ Presidential Library on Dec. 13, 2011.

Democratic members of the Texas congressional delegation have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to initiate legal proceedings against the Texas Department of Insurance to stop the implementation of state rules on the federal navigator program.

As the San Antonio Express-News reported Tuesday, congressional Democrats asked the U.S. Department of Justice to take steps to “enjoin or declare invalid regulations proposed by the Texas Department of Insurance that impose arbitrary, burdensome, and discriminatory restrictions on federal navigators.” The letter was signed by 10 of 12 congressional Democrats; the members who did not sign the letter were Reps. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, and Pete Gallego, D-Alpine.

Read the full letter here.

The federal navigator program set up under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, is intended to help uninsured people sign up for health insurance. Local organizations in Texas received $11 million to hire and train navigators. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services already requires navigators to complete 20 to 30 hours of training and to pass a certification test, among other requirements.

Gov. Rick Perry, who staunchly opposes the federal health reform law, first requested the additional rules for the federal program in September, citing consumer privacy concerns. Other Republican state political leaders, including Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott, who are both currently involved in statewide campaigns, also called for additional regulation of navigators and have called for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Aimed at addressing concerns from state leaders, the proposed rules would require navigators to undergo criminal background checks and comply with additional privacy and Texas Medicaid training. They would also prohibit conflicts of interest. The additional rules also explicitly prohibit navigators from charging individuals for their services, selling or soliciting health insurance, recommending specific health plans, providing guidance on comparing the benefits of specific plans, and engaging in certain political activities, such as campaigning or promoting a political party or candidate.

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