Starting Oct. 1, Texans will be able to go through a federal online insurance exchange. That exchange requires people signing up to put in some sensitive information to see if they qualify for tax credits to purchase coverage.
To help Texas out, the federal government awarded millions of dollars in grants to local organizations to hire and train these so-called navigators, but for Governor Rick Perry, the federal ground rules for those navigators are not enough.
Perry sent a letter to the Texas Department of Insurance commissioner Tuesday saying that on top of the 20 to 30 hours of required federal training, he wanted the TDI to establish the following new requirements:
• 40 hours of state training
• Provide proof of citizenship or legal residency
• Rigorous exam
• Initial and periodic background checks
Democratic State Sen. Kirk Watson authored the bill this past session to authorize TDI to regulate navigators at the state level, if needed.
"It's not clear to me that all of the Governor's instructions are even allowed under this bill or other state or federal law,” Watson said in a statement to YNN. “He's twisting the meaning of protecting consumers to fulfill a political agenda."
Left-leaning think tank Center for Public Policy Priorities was originally consulted on the bill. They agree that added barriers could get in the way of implementation.
"Navigator type programs are a tried and true process for encouraging enrollment and answering people's questions, especially who are low income, who are in under-served communities,” Stacey Pogue with the Center for Public Policy Priorities said. “Navigators are going to be the key connection between them and coverage in 2014."
TDI says they'll follow the standard rule-making process which includes months of hearings which could delay training the navigators trained, meaning it's unlikely they'll be ready anytime soon.
Open enrollment begins October first and ends March 31st.