In Rush To Get Obamacare Underway, Tennessee Backs Off Fingerprinting Recruiters

Navigators and certified application counselors will be helping Tennesseans enroll in the health insurance exchange, which is now named "The Marketplace." However, Tennessee is behind other states. The Navigators are still completing required federal training and have not begun outreach efforts. Credit: Christiana Care via Flickr

Navigators and certified application counselors will be helping Tennesseans enroll in the health insurance exchange, which is now named “The Marketplace.” However, Tennessee is behind other states. The Navigators are still completing required federal training and have not begun outreach efforts. Credit: Christiana Care via Flickr

Fingerprinting Obamacare health plan counselors is going to wait in Tennessee. The state’s Department of Commerce and Insurance is backing off the requirement, saying there’s no time to run checks through the system.

The agency issued “emergency rules” late last week that mandated federal background checks, sending fingerprints to the FBI, which can – in some cases – take months. It was seen by some health care advocates as an effort to impede enrollment in the health exchange set to launch October 1st.

However, the department of Commerce and Insurance says it has no interest in standing in the way of Obamacare and that a basic background check will have to do for now.

“We will eventually be getting all those fingerprints,” spokesperson Kate Abernathy said. “But we won’t be forcing them to get something done within a couple of days which is unreasonable.”

There are two levels of Obamacare outreach workers affected. The Navigators are directly funded by federal grants, and certified application counselors get federal training but might work for another non-profit or even hospital. Both could end up handling sensitive information like Social Security numbers, tax returns and health histories.

Like other Republican-led legislatures, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a law requiring additional background checks. But the Navigators – themselves – say the state agencies have been “responsive.”

“I have not perceived political issues,” says Kathy Wood-Dobbins, CEO of the Tennessee Primary Care Association, which will oversee 10 Navigators. “I think that there has been a real effort to protect the public.”

While those with federal training do need a background check, state regulators say anyone at a church or library can give advice to someone needing help with insurance, so long as they’re not handling that person’s confidential information.

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