DOVER, Del. – Lawmakers in several states have passed legislation to address concerns about potential security risks involving workers hired to help people apply for health care insurance under the Affordable Care Act. There’s no sign, however, that the enrolment assistants, even those with criminal records, have misused consumers’ personal information.
Here are five things to know about the issue:
THERE’S NO FEDERAL REQUIREMENT
The Obama administration decided not to require criminal background checks for health care navigators, although states can set their own rules for workers helping people enrol for insurance under the federal health care reform law.
Some states, such as Texas and Louisiana, have adopted legislation and regulations that allow officials to deny certification to work as an enrolment assistant if someone has been convicted of a felony. In many other states, a criminal background does not act as an automatic disqualifier.
VETTING FOR THOSE WITH RECORDS
In at least three states, California, Nevada and Delaware, people with criminal pasts have been allowed to work as enrolment assistants. Officials in all three states say they have received no complaints about enrolment workers misusing consumers’ personal information.
The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to force the Obama administration to release records regarding contracts awarded to private entities for providing navigators to help people enrol for health insurance. The group also is seeking records regarding the federal requirements for navigators, including background checks and qualifications. Meanwhile, Missouri officials are appealing a federal judge’s decision to halt implementation of a state law requiring people to be licensed by the state in order to work as enrolmentcounsellors or navigators. The judge said the state law was an obstacle to the federal law and thus pre-empted by federal law.
The decision by some states not to establish a blanket prohibition against hiring people with criminal records as enrolment assistants is in line with employer guidance issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2012. The EEOC said factors such as the nature of the offence, the time that has passed, and duties of the job in question should be taken into consideration. “You don’t automatically exclude someone, but you look to see if there’s a good and proper fit,” said Susan Gauvey, a federal magistrate judge in Baltimore who is a proponent of hiring ex-offenders.