Although the Affordable Care Act rolled out several weeks ago and has been law for a few years now, there are still many questions about the plan that many may have if interested in getting coverage. To help those needing information about what plan best suits them, the administration has enlisted the help of “navigators,” or someone who provides information, answers questions, and signs up anyone who wants coverage.
Obviously, the rollout has not gone over smoothly as Republicans and right-wingers are still throwing a hall-of-fame hissy fit over the law’s implementation and did so by shutting down the government. But, any inhibition that the right-wing is wanting to place upon the Affordable Care Act goes deeper than the federal level and dives into the state level.
Seventeen states, all of which have either a Republican-run legislature/governor or was red in the last election, have implemented laws that place restrictions on ACA navigators. Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, and Tennessee actually have laws that prevent navigators from advising people about the ACA’s benefits altogether.
In this country, there are about 16 million people without medical coverage, which seems to be one of the “few functional options left” after Healthcare.gov’s bumpy launch, as The Atlantic reports.
Whenever the state of Massachusetts launched its health-reform law in 2006, it experienced a similar trend in how people enrolled, said Harvard School of Public Health professor John McDonough. McDonough noted that the state’s website initially had a “slow trickle of sign-ups” and that more successful enrollments happened by the hand of healthcare providers and social workers.
“Most people signed up through hospitals and community health centers when they showed up for care in person,” said McDonough. “They were assisted by hospital personnel. The voluntary individuals enrollments went much pokier.”
But that was Massachusetts, where it was a state law and therefore more likely experienced more favor among residents. The story is much different now that a similar law has been implemented on the national scale.
Florida has actually banned navigators from county health departments and Texas Gov. Rick Perry threw together a bunch of bureaucratic red tape, like fingerprinting navigators, required state fees, and extra coursework in addition to federal requirements, that makes working in Texas much more difficult for navigators.
Ohio and West Virginia turned down federal grant money intended to help fund navigators in the states. The group from Ohio said it was because of the “state’s restrictions on navigators.”
In addition to outright preventing navigators from helping prospective enrollees, other tactics used by these states include enacting a requirement for navigators to purchase professional liability insurance, and simply broadening non-navigator group limitations.