When the question of requiring background checks on Obamacare “navigators” first crossed my desk, it seemed as though there was a debate between the federal government and the state as to whether background checks needed to occur or not.
First, there was a Hill report stated that the federal government typically would background check these types of, shall we say, subcontractors. Then, I noticed in Mike Dennison’s piece for Lee Newspapers that the Legislature passed a law that also mandates background checks for this type of a scenario.
So, what will happen here in Montana? Well, Monica Lindeen (D-MT), Montana’s Commissioner of Securities and Insurance, is clear: navigators will undergo a background check.
In a prepared statement released Tuesday morning, Lindeen said this:
Individuals who help Montanans enroll in insurance under Obamacare this fall are subject to the same strict privacy laws governing insurance companies and are subject to fines and prosecution for failing to keep Montanans’ personal information private, Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen said Tuesday.
Montana’s Insurance Information and Privacy Protection Act covers “navigators” and “certified application counselors” and individuals who fail to comply with the law are subject to a $25,000 fine for each violation, Lindeen said. The state law may also allow Montanans to sue those who fail to keep their personal information private.
“Montanans value privacy and our laws reflect that,” Lindeen said. “My office has been in the business of protecting the personal information Montanans share with their insurance companies for years. We’re not afraid to use the full extent of the law to go after bad actors.”
The 2013 Legislature passed a law by wide, bipartisan margins earlier this year that empowered Insurance Commissioner Lindeen’s office to further train all assisters on the specifics of Montana law and to license all navigators, CACs and agents. The law further requires navigators to pass a background check.
I spoke with Commissioner Lindeen Tuesday afternoon, and got her thoughts on the state’s privacy laws, the Obamacare exchange rollout, and a recent report by The Columbia Journalism Review which mentioned some of the hidden costs of the exchanges in Montana.
Click below to listen to the interview (10 minutes):
Click to Listen
I thought Democratic political consultant Bob Brigham had an interesting response to the call by over a dozen Attorneys General to call for background checks on the community organizer groups granted millions in taxpayer dollars to become “Obamacare Navigators” (language warning):
Even if this were some new policy, would you want folks handling your tax records, private health records, and more to be background checked? It’s an interesting debate.
But the real story here appears to be the fact that the call by Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and others is nothing new. In fact, it appears, according to this report in The Hill, that it is actually already policy by the federal government to conduct background checks on folks serving in these positions. What is actually happening is that the federal government, so far behind with Obamacare implementation, appears to be waiving this requirement in the name of Obamacare. Waiving this requirement for Obamacare navigators like Planned Parenthood would be like the Bush Administration waiving background check requirements for Halliburton.
Furthermore, it appears the Montana State Legislature also passed a law requiring background checks for Obamacare navigators.
First this, from The Hill:
(Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi) Bondi said that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is making it easier for someone to be hired as a so-called navigator, cutting back on background checks and eliminating a fingerprinting requirement, which could make it easier for a person’s private information to fall into the wrong hands.
“Because of time constraints, HHS [is] cutting back on the requirement to become a navigator, meaning they’re not going to be doing background checks. They’re not going to be fingerprinting these people,” said Bondi in an interview with Fox.
Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/317513-state-attorneys-general-raise-privacy-concerns-over-obamacare-navigators#ixzz2ccBGBW6V
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When it comes to state law, Lee Newspapers had this:
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and 12 other Republican attorneys general are raising concerns about the security of personal data when people are assisted in signing up for subsidized health policies under “Obamacare” this fall.
The Montana Legislature this year also passed a law requiring navigators to undergo training, become certified by the state and undergo criminal background checks.
When asked whether Fox thought the state law created adequate protections, Fox spokesman John Barnes said the federal government “bears the ultimate responsibility for protecting consumer privacy in Montana’s insurance exchange.”