State lawmakers with an interest in insurance say they want to keep the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) from casting health insurance customers adrift.
Members of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) adopted two resolutions related to PPACA at their recent spring meeting in Washington.
One calls for states to make sure the "navigators" and "assisters" who help individual consumers use the new PPACA health insurance exchanges, or Web-based insurance supermarkets, are qualified to do their jobs.
PPACA defines "navigators" as "ombudsmen" who will help consumers -- including low-income consumers who may never have had health coverage -- understand how to use the exchanges.
Assisters are supposed to help consumers apply for coverage.
Neither navigators nor assisters are supposed to be recommending specific coverage options or collecting compensation from health insurers.
Regulators at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have argued that PPACA is written in such a way that the navigators cannot be licensed as agents or brokers without violating PPACA.
NCOIL is not asking states to get exchange navigators and assisters as agents or brokers, but it is asking states to ensure that navigators are qualified and trained; subject to background checks; and subject to policing and enforcement by state insurance regulators.
Although HHS says states cannot regulate navigators as brokers, the department "has so far ruled that navigators -- even those serving federal exchange consumers -- will have to comply with state regulations," NCOIL said.
Members of the NCOIL executive committee have unanimously approved a resolution that calling for a campaign that will educate the public about the options available to consumers who are enrolled in discontinued health insurance policies.
NCOIL President Charles Curtiss, a Tennessee state representative, said in a statement that consumers in health plans closed because of PPACA could find that they are in a shrinking coverage pool with higher rates.
"People need to know what they can do if they are stuck in a discontinued health plan," Curtiss said.
NCOIL will be asking HHS, state insurance commissioners and the PPACA exchanges to include information about coverage options for consumers with closed-block coverage in any public education efforts related to the options that will be available as a result of PPACA starting in 2014, officials said.