By Timothy Jost
In a major victory for the ACA, on January 23, 2014, Judge Ortie Smith of the federal court for the Western District of Missouri enjoined the Missouri Department of Insurance from enforcing a Missouri law that requires federal navigators, certified application counselors (CACs), and counselor-designated organizations to obtain a state license and limits their activities.
State laws imposing licensure requirements on navigators and CACs and restricting their activities have been enacted by at least seventeen states. The enactment of these laws, almost all of which have been adopted by Republican-dominated states, appear to be driven by a combination of concern for consumer protection, political opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and lobbying by agent and broker groups trying to protect their turf from competition. The laws require navigators and other counselors and assisters authorized under the auspices of the ACA to obtain state licenses, impose licensure obligations beyond those imposed by federal law, and limit what navigators and assisters can say to consumers whom they are assisting.
The lawsuit challenging the Missouri navigator licensure law was brought by the Saint Louis Effort for AIDS and Planned Parenthood of the Saint Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, which are both counselor-designated organizations, CACs, and navigators under the ACA, as well as by a variety of other consumer advocacy and economic justice organizations and individual doctors and others who provide or want information about coverage under the ACA. The plaintiffs were represented by Jay Angoff, the first director of the HHS Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (which became the current CMS Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight), who is now in private practice, other members of his firm Mehri and Skalet, and Jane Perkins and Abbi Coursolle of the National Health Law Program. The defendant was the Missouri Department of Insurance. Read the full article here »