On October 1, the health insurance exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act will go into effect, allowing millions of uninsured Americans (five million of them in Texas) to access health insurance. Critical to getting these people insured are thousands of “navigators,” who will be reaching out directly to make sure the uninsured know about their new options and how to sign up. But because Governor Perry can't stop the exchanges from going into effect in Texas, he's decided to make things as hard as possible for the navigators.
On September 17, Perry sent a letter to the Texas Department of Insurance that would require an additional 40 hours of training for navigators, in addition to the 20 already required. And in a mystifyingly invasive move, he's also requesting that navigators report the names of everyone they enroll for health insurance, which is patently illegal.
Read about the response to Perry's attempted maneuver after the jump. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is telling it like it is, saying: “This is blatant attempt to add cumbersome requirements to the navigator program and deter groups from working to inform Americans about their new health insurance options and help them enroll in coverage.”
Texas lawmakers who actually care about our vast uninsured population are fighting the move as well. State Rep. Garnet F. Coleman (D-Houston) also raises an important point, which is that even if Perry doesn't succeed in creating these barriers for navigators, he will generate additional confusion:
“Governor Perry's most burdensome requirements violate both federal law and the state law he cites as his authority, so there is little chance they will actually go into effect. What he may succeed in doing, however, is intimidating and scaring away those who otherwise want to help their fellow Texans find affordable health insurance. A broad interpretation of Perry's letter would mean that even legislative offices such as mine would be unable to assist constituents seeking guidance. That is completely unacceptable.”
State Senator Kirk Watson added, “This is a tool to improve our healthcare system, not dismantle it even further. He's twisting the meaning of protecting consumers to fulfill an extreme political agenda. This will hurt Texans who need healthcare far more than it helps him in some GOP primary.”
The reality is that next week, despite the best efforts of Rick Perry, Ted Cruz or House Republicans, unprecedented numbers of uninsured Texans will be able to access health insurance for the first time. And when Perry and friends try to take credit for the better state of our state in the coming months and years, we'll remember who tried to get in the way.