Lawsuit questions TN restrictions for Obamacare navigators - WSMV Channel 4

Lawsuit questions TN restrictions for Obamacare navigators

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV-AP) -

A day before the Affordable Care Act's new insurance exchange officially opens for business, a Davidson County chancellor heard a last-minute lawsuit over one restriction in the state.

The federal healthcare program allows people to buy health insurance if they don't have coverage where they work, and there is a group of trained workers who help consumers sign up for the program.

But the state of Tennessee was sued about some rules that place restrictions on those helpers, called navigators, along with anyone who might give advice on health insurance - which could include family, clergy, civic organizations or other acquaintances and advisers.

The state insurance department made rules saying those navigators have to be registered with the state, be fingerprinted and have their backgrounds checked.

The lawsuit challenged that rule, saying the way it's written, it's way too broad.

The rules authorize a fine of $1,000 per violation.

The suit was filed by the League of Women Voters, along with doctors, social workers and pastors who say the registration violates their right to free speech.

In his ruling Monday evening, Chancellor Russell Perkins denied a motion for a temporary restraining order, so the rules will stay in place.

Gov. Bill Haslam said the rules covering people dispensing advice about the new health insurance exchange are not designed to hinder enrollment.

Haslam said the background check requirement is meant to protect people from fraud.

Haslam said he wants the exchange to succeed despite his opposition to the overall health care law.

"The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land right now and whether I agree with it or not doesn't matter," Haslam said.

Tennessee is among 36 states that deferred to the federal government to run the online marketplaces.

"Certainly, if it's in place, we want it to work well," Haslam said.

Haslam said the rules were authorized by legislation passed with wide bipartisan support earlier this year, and were enacted at the last-minute because of a delay of federal guidelines.

"It's certainly not intended to be a stumbling block," Haslam said.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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