Texas Issues Tough Rules for Insurance Navigators Who Help People Enroll on Exchanges

January 27, 2014

Texas has imposed strict new regulations on the insurance helpers, or navigators, who work in the community to enroll people in health plans under the Affordable Care Act.

The navigators must register with the state, undergo a background check and fingerprinting, and complete 20 hours of additional training — beyond the 20 to 30 hours of federal training they've already received.

There are more than 400 navigators working across Texas, and they have become a symbol of Obamacare as they fan out across neighborhoods armed with laptops and brochures.

Texas Republicans pushed for the requirements, citing security concerns. Navigators help uninsured people shop for plans and subsidies at HealthCare.gov. By its nature, the work involves entering sensitive personal information like Social Security numbers and income information.

Still, the final regulations are less stringent than originally proposed. After pushback from Democrats and community groups that employ navigators, the Texas Department of Insurance reduced the training requirement from 40 to 20 hours, and dropped a $50 registration fee. Navigators will also have until May 1 to complete their training. That means coursework won't interfere with an expected enrollment rush before the March 31 deadline.

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