Obamacare Gag Orders

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — New reporting today by The Atlantic online has revealed another wrinkle in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. Many states have begun actively limiting the information that people can receive about their benefits under the law.

Through the ACA the federal government has handed out over $67 million in grants for on the ground "Navigators," individuals or groups who help people sign up for insurance on the health care exchanges. These navigators are there to bridge the gap between a fairly complicated law and consumers who simply want to get health insurance, as well as to provide an in-person alternative for anyone who can't sign up online.

According to Associate Editor Olga Khazan, however, 17 different states have passed laws targeted at people trying to give advice about the Affordable Care Act. This legislation ranges from imposing registration and licensing requirements on anyone signing up to be a navigator, to banning them outright from discussing particular benefits or aspects of health insurance plans.

"States that resisted Obamacare in the first place seem to be, unsurprisingly, the same ones that are wary of the navigators," Khazan writes. "Florida banned navigators from working in county health departments. Texas Governor Rick Perry wanted navigators to be fingerprinted, pay a state licensing fee, and take an extra 40 hours of coursework on top of what federal law required."

The restrictions are often in direct conflict with federal law, which generally forbids a state from imposing licensing requirements on navigators or restrictions on advice that they can give.

See Khazan's piece for her full analysis, as well as a state-by-state breakdown of the issue.

--Written for MainStreet by Eric Reed, a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the subjects of career and travel. You can read more of his work at his website www.wanderinglawyer.com.