Ohio Works to Protect Consumers From Navigator Fraud

Published September 30, 2013

Under an Ohio law, “navigators” hired under President Obama’s health care overhaul will have to pass a background check and meet other requirements beyond those mandated by the federal government.

Rep. Barbara Sears, R-Sylvania, author of House Bill 3 imposing the restrictions, say her aim is simply to protect consumers from potential fraud.

“The lack of clarity in the federal rules means there is nothing in place to protect consumers,” Sears said, “especially with the amount of financial and other personal information the navigators will have access to.”

Sears said the requirements are similar to those placed on agents and brokers operating in Ohio today.

“Imagine someone who hasn’t undergone a background check coming into your home in the evening, getting all your tax information, your Social Security number, and then walking out and you not knowing who you just gave all that personal information to,” Sears said. “To me, that was intolerable.” 

Lack of Oversight

A report from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform recently found “the main concern for consumers is the heightened risk of identity theft and financial loss from a poorly managed outreach campaign.”

The study expressed concern the Obama administration “decided not to require background checks and fingerprinting of individuals hired by Navigator and Assister organizations. Under the Administration’s plan, unless states have already taken actions to protect their citizens, Navigators and Assisters are not prohibited from hiring convicted felons, including individuals convicted of identity theft or fraud.”

Chris Brock, communications director for the Ohio Department of Insurance, noted several states have decided to require fingerprinting and background checks because of these concerns.

“Navigators will be handling sensitive information and providing specific information that consumers will rely on,” Brock said. “Because of this, House Bill 3 puts in place important consumer protections while giving the Department of Insurance the necessary oversight to ensure navigators are properly trained, certified, and undergo a criminal background check.” 

Taxpayer Funded Navigators

Ohio’s law also prohibits any outside interest, along with the state, from funding navigators. Sears said this was to comply with the Health Care Freedom Amendment passed by voters in 2012, which prohibits the state’s participation in any aspect of Obamacare.

Sears emphasized these requirements were a proper role for the state, since “regulating insurance products is a states’ rights issue.”

“The Left says we’re making it difficult to enact and promote [Obamacare]. The other side says we are de facto implementing it,” Sears said. “The bottom line is that we put rules and regulations in place to protect the consumer, regardless of what happens with [Obama’s law].” 

Maggie Thurber ([email protected]) writes for Ohio Watchdog.