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AUSTIN

Hearing Held on Role of Affordable Care Act Navigators

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AUSTIN -

The Texas Department of Insurance held a special hearing regarding a certain key part of the Affordable Care Act here in Texas.

The issue at the center of the hearing dealt with so-called health care 'navigators' who help people enroll in coverage. Gov. Rick Perry has put in place several new restrictions on the activities of navigators. They include requiring an additional 40 hours of training and paying an extra $1,000 in fees. The restrictions also limit who can and cannot act as a navigator.

Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber held a public hearing on Monday regarding the new rules. One of the major concerns at the center of the new rule changes is the fact that navigators have access to citizens' public information, and federal officials have already confirmed that navigators can, in fact, be convicted felons.

This has led many to demand the extra training so that individuals are actually qualified to deal with people's personal financial health records.

"It's a chance for the Department of Insurance to reinforce their concern and some legislative interest in the standards for not only protecting privacy, but also to make sure these individuals understand the market enough to inform consumers of the options available to them," Texas Association of Health Plans CEO David Gonzales said.

Department of Insurance staff proposed the rules last month. There are many who are voicing their concerns on the proposed changes including democratic state Sen. Kirk Watson. He says that the rules go far beyond consumer protection, and that they are actually attempts to further sideline President Obama's health care program.

Officials for non-profit agencies that train and supply navigators have spoken out about the proposed rule changes. They say that the government-required 20-30 hours of training is already enough, and they ensure that those who work as health care counselors are indeed fit for their jobs.

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