Okla. regulator wants navigators deleted from health reform law

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Oklahoma’s insurance commissioner wants Congress to remove all references to “navigators” deleted from the federal health reform law.

In comments to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners regarding the role of navigators, John D. “Okie” Doak advocates on behalf of license insurance agents in facilitating enrollment in health plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed in March 2010.

“I want to make my position clear,” Doak wrote in his letter. “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act should be changed to delete any reference to navigators. Short of that, any person placing insurance through the exchanges authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act must be licensed by the state insurance department as a producer or broker.”

He characterizes navigators as “more of an educational resource, more akin to a health insurance ombudsman.”

The health reform law mandates that navigators help individuals and small business owners to negotiate their way through health insurance exchanges, where they will be able to compare health plans and prices, buy coverage and obtain federal subsidies. The exchanges must be operational in each state by January 2014.

Health insurance agents and brokers, and their trade groups have been lobbying state insurance commissioners, state legislators and members of Congress, seeking to ensure their role within health reform is preserved. Already, a number of insurance companies have cut agent and broker commissions by as much as 50% in response to new spending requirements under the law.

Doak notes that states have “a long history” or regulating insurance transactions, saying, “States’ authority cannot be ignored.”

He also notes that state laws already protect the privacy of patient information gathered by insurance agents and brokers.

“Agents and brokers have long served to navigate individuals and employers through the maze of insurance options and to ‘facilitate’ enrollment into insurance products,” Doak wrote.

“They are also specifically authorized, in Section 1312 of the [PPACA], to enroll an individual or an employer through the exchange and to assist individuals in applying for tax credits and cost-sharing reductions for plans sold through the exchange. Not just ‘facilitate’ enrollment, but actually enroll them.”

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  • Clear As Mud |

    [...] the federal government’s intrusion into insurance regulation and health insurance. He has asked what kind of training the Navigators will have in insurance products, health information privacy regulations (HIPAA), or [...]

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