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Some See Politics in Proposed Training Rules for Insurance 'Navigators'

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News
State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, spoke against proposed rules from the Texas Department of Insurance for so-called "navigators" at a public hearing on Jan. 6, 2014.

Texas officials have proposed adding new rules for the so-called "navigators" -- the people who help consumers sign up for health insurance through the federally-run marketplace.

Today, Texas Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber heard comments for and against these rules from the public, including additional hours of training, which some say is political effort to hamper the health insurance law.

Right now, navigators get 20 to 30 hours of training. The proposed rules would add 40 more hours of training, which would cost more. Navigators would also have to pay registration fees. StateRep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, says there’s nothing wrong with that.

"I think what this is about making sure that Texans are protected and that people who are doing this are properly vetted and properly trained," Workman says.

He says the training will take a week, and argues that isn’t much for understanding insurance and the Affordable Care Actwell. But State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, says the new rules are all about politics – and state leaders’ desire to hamstring the health law's rollout.

"There’s little question that anything related to the Affordable Care Act in the state of Texas has political implications," Watson says. "The problem with that is that we live in a state that has the highest rate of uninsured in the country."

The Texas Department of Insurance is in the final stages of drawing up the proposed training rules, which could be in place by mid-February. 

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