Lawmakers and members of the public testified on new Texas-only rules for the Affordable Care Act on Dec. 20 in Austin.
The new rules would restrict who can become a health insurance "navigator" under the Affordable Care Act. These proposed rules have caused controversy: critics say they're meant to impede the success of the federal health care law, whereas supporters say they will teach navigators how to safeguard consumers' information.
The Texas Department of Insurance wrote the proposed rules to regulate navigators. They're already required to go through a federal training before they help people sign up for insurance through the new federal healthcare exchange.
On Friday, the TDI heard public comments on its proposed rules – which could go into effect as early as Jan. 7. They include requiring navigators to pay a $50 registration fee and undergo 40 more hours of Texas training. State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, opposes the proposed rules.
"It’s very troubling that what appears to be being done here is an effort to make it harder to be a navigator; therefore, less people will get through that process," Sen. Watson said.
State Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas, says navigators are not trained well enough without the tougher Texas requirements.
"They’re dealing with people’s personal financial, health records, records that need to be kept private. And so if it requires additional training to make sure that happens, I’m all for it," Rep. Sheets said.
A second hearing on the proposed rules is planned for Jan. 6 at the Hobby Building on 333 Guadalupe St.