Gov. Rick Perry has ordered the Texas Department of Insurance to come up with a set of rules governing the Affordable Care Act’s navigator program.
ACA navigators will be helping people get the information they need to sign up for qualified plans under the new law.
In a letter sent Tuesday, Perry asked the TDI to begin the process of rulemaking for nonprofit groups who will be acting as navigators for the Affordable Care Act. Josh Havens with the governor’s office said most of the requirements Perry is asking for have to do with competency.
"Including requiring navigators to complete a certain amount of hours of state training in addition to the federal training -- we've asked that they pass an exam based on that training. Refrain from influencing a customer’s decision or a consumer’s decision on which insurance to choose," Havens said.
Havens said these rules will ensure that everyone’s personal information is protected.
The TDI's John Greenly said the rule-making process begins with the public’s and healthcare industry’s take on the navigator program.
"There’s multiple steps in that process and the first step will be receiving public input," Greenly said.
The online health exchanges tied to the new law are scheduled to open on Oct. 1 but the governor's office said they plan to have all the rules in place by Jan. 1. How this new move by Perry affects ACA rollout in Texas remains to be seen.
Update (9/19): Several Democratic lawmakers are issuing statements expressing their disappointment in Perry's action to halt ACA rollout.
State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon of San Antonio:
"Governor Perry's call for stricter navigator policies via Texas Senate Bill 1795 is not only detrimental, but also unfounded. The bill contains no authorizations for many of Perry's provisions, which would ultimately serve to marginalize the low and moderate income citizens with excessive red tape and conflict with federal guidelines."
State Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston:
"Governor Perry has expanded his war on the poor and is now targeting working and middle class Texans. First, he refused to expand Medicaid in Texas, which would have allowed the neediest Texans to obtain health insurance. Now he seeks to place onerous requirements on “Navigators,” the individuals and organizations assisting those who wish to purchase health insurance on the newly created health insurance exchange.
"Almost 2.6 million Texans will qualify for financial assistance by purchasing insurance on the exchange, and they will understandably have a lot of questions. Governor Perry wants to make it as difficult as possible for these Texans to find help. These new requirements are the exact kind of bureaucratic red tape that he so often claims to oppose."
State Rep. Mike Villarreal of San Antonio:
"It is unfortunate that Governor Perry is determined to make it harder for uninsured Texans to purchase affordable health insurance. The Governor has always pushed for less regulation. Now, with two weeks to go until the Marketplace opens, he is pushing for more state regulations on Texans helping their neighbors find health insurance."