Federal Judge Strikes Down Missouri Gag Rule on Health Care Navigators

Federal Judge Strikes Down Missouri Gag Rule on Health Care Navigators

WASHINGTON—In a victory for health reform advocates, the U.S. District Court struck down Missouri state laws that severely restricted the advice health care navigators and certified application counselors could give to insurance customers. Senior Judge Ortie D. Smith ruled that provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) preempt Missouri’s restrictive legislation, which means consumers will have full access to the assistance they need to choose the best coverage that suits their needs.

NHeLP, alongside co-counsel Jay Angoff of Mehri & Skalet, represented Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri and the St. Louis Effort for AIDS in the case, which will undoubtedly have effects in other states that have passed similarly restrictive laws.

“This ruling is plain and clear – states cannot pass laws that create barriers between people and the best health coverage for them,” said NHeLP staff attorney Abbi Coursole. “Now, we hope that this will be the end to similar laws in other states, and affected individuals and families can make informed decisions about their health coverage.”

“Some states have done everything possible to prevent residents from accessing health coverage, whether it be through the Marketplace or Medicaid,” said NHeLP legal director Jane Perkins. “This ruling has the potential to provide more accessible advice and information to people barred from good health coverage by political interference. People have the right to ask questions about their health coverage, and to get accurate answers.”

Missouri’s law was on the extreme end of a spate of state laws in approximately 15 states meant to impede ACA implementation. These laws range from onerous training and certification requirements for navigators to provisions limiting their scope of allowable activities.

Senior Judge Smith’s ruling marks the end of the road for the state’s opposition in this case and signals that states cannot put barriers in the way of informing people about their options for affordable health care coverage.

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