A Tennessee Republican who once called background checks for gun buyers a “knee-jerk reaction” to the Newtown school shooting, saying, “I will not erode our second amendment rights,” is now advising her constituents not to sign up for new health insurance because of background checks on navigators.
Representative Diane Black (R-TN) says she and the Tennessee Department of Commerce are “very concerned” about navigators, or counselors trained to help educate and sign up residents for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), “not having background checks.”
Black is certainly not the first Republican to use fear mongering to make people leery of navigators. Last month, the state of Florida’s Department of Health effectively banned ACA outreach as a result of Governor Rick Scott’s (R-FL) “concern” over what outreach counselors and/or the federal government might do with the personal and financial information obtained during the health care registration process.
In an interview on MSNBC, Black claimed that navigators would be taking residents’ social security number, bank information, and health information, and that they should therefore undergo background checks “so they don’t have the most personal information that could be let out there and used in ways that we would not like our identity to be used.” As if a stolen identity is comparable to losing one’s life to gun violence.
Republican claims have been disproven. As Forbes reported in August, navigators only require the number of family members who need coverage, the income of everyone in the family, and a list of other sources of health care available to family members, such as coverage through an employer.
And, as Carolyn McClanahan of Forbes points out, nothing about our health information is secret anyway – insurance companies can access information on people’s prescriptions, and they have our social security numbers. McClanahan writes,
Because health insurance prices are no longer based on health, Navigators will not ask you about health information. This is a good thing.
So what keeps Navigators from stealing your private information and your identity? Thirteen Republican Attorney Generals wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services about their concerns. These Attorney Generals must not know the content of the Affordable Care Act, as Section 4302 outlines how data is used and protected. The requirements are the same as HIPAA, and for those who have ever accessed the health care system and needed information, you will realize the rules are very stringent. Section 1411 sets the fine for improper use and disclosure of information at $25,000. And identity theft is a federal crime regardless of where the thief obtained the information.
Republican “concerns” over health care outreach workers are quite simply a fear-based method of discouraging people from signing up for what is, for many Americans, much-needed health care coverage. Unfortunately, this method has already worked in some states like Florida, where navigators are now prevented from conducting outreach at health departments across the state.