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Bill would regulate Obamacare navigators in Pa.

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Legislation that would require Obamacare navigators to be certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance and pass a criminal background check is now headed to the state Senate for consideration.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Wednesday approved Senate Bill 1268, which also would apply to Obamacare-certified application counselors. Its prime sponsor is Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-30.

“This legislation will enable the Department to identify responsible parties and otherwise better enforce state laws regulating the practice of insurance in the Commonwealth. The introduction of these navigators into the health insurance market raises numerous consumer protection issues,” Eichelberger said in a news release.

“Navigators must provide complete, detailed and reliable information to consumers," he continued. "Since these navigators will have access to confidential medical information protected by HIPAA, it is critical that they preserve the privacy of the extremely sensitive information they will be given by consumers. At the very least, consumers and the Pennsylvania Insurance Department should know who these individuals are and that they have passed some form of background check or training.”

Federal law does not require navigators or CACs to obtain a criminal background check, the release said, which "has already led to convicted felons working as navigators in other states."

Jim Willshier is director of policy and partnership at the Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers, which has been heavily involved in Obamacare outreach in Pennsylvania. He said PACHC has provided much input to those developing the legislation and was happy to see that a major amendment to the bill addressed a lot of its concerns.

As it stands now, he said, the bill essentially codifies best practices that have already been happening in many Pennsylvania outreach programs and then requires registration with the state insurance department. Many of the requirements it contains mirror those in the existing federal law, he added.

Details on that registration process are not clear yet, Willshier said, but PACHC hopes it would be straightforward, simple and cheap.

As to allegations of wrongdoing by navigators or CACs, Willshier noted that, in a hearing in April, the state's insurance commissioner reported no problems to date in this state.

In other health news, the Banking and Insurance Committee also approved Senate Bill 1432, which would amend state law regarding limits on co-payments for insured medical services provided by a physical therapist, chiropractor or occupational therapist.

Heather Stauffer

Heather Stauffer

Heather Stauffer covers Lancaster County, nonprofits, education and health care. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at heathers@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @StaufferCPBJ.

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Bob Ryan June 26, 2014 11:20 pm

This makes perfect sense. Most navigators are inexperienced, part-time and have to read out of a manual to answer complicated questions. I don't want them looking at my financial information.

Brokers are far more experienced and are able to discuss specific plans and off-Exchange options.

Joe Succop June 26, 2014 2:23 pm

The potential for accountability and compliance, this is a good thing for those living in the Commonwealth of PA!

vince phillips June 26, 2014 12:04 pm

Hopefully this consumer protection legislation will see prompt Senate action within the legislative process.

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