COLUMBIA - Until late last week, those seeking to assist consumers navigating the president's health insurance marketplace were required to become licensed with the state of Missouri. A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction last Thursday against Missouri's law, stating it conflicted the Affordable Care Act.
Previously, navigators were required to go through criminal background checks, go through at least 20 hours of online training and meet numerous requirements. That's something licensed insurance agent, Kat Cunningham said was fair.
"If you're going to be a navigator, the minimum we need to do is a background check. You're taking all this information and what's happening to it?" Cunningham said.
Primaris' Navigator Program Manager, Jeremy Milarsky said it isn't something consumers should be too worried about.
"We personally as navigators do not keep your information. The most we keep is your name and your phone number for customer service purposes," Milarksy said.
Prior to the ruling, Milarsky said individuals seeking a state license paid approximately $25 and entities employing navigators paid $50. He said the elimination of the requirement of state licenses doesn't mean they have stopped applying for them.
"That injunction hasn't stopped us for applying for licenses for people who are coming on board," he said.
The requirements are different for insurance agents looking to help people enroll.
Cunningham said licensed insurance agents are required by law to renew their license for $105 every two years, as well as pay for continuing education courses each year.
"For me as a licensed agent, the criteria and the test that I took, was so extensive that it really required me by law to follow what we do as a licensed insurance agent," Cunningham said.
That's something she said will allow her to give assistance above and beyond that of the site navigators.
"The navigator's role is just to help people navigate through the website. But a navigator can't make recommendations about plans or know the difference between plans, or know, maybe what's best for the consumer," Cunningham said.
Milarsky said those concerned about their information security should be aware of red flags.
"Every organization that is federally certified can be found on the website at localhelp.healthcare.gov. If the organization isn't listed there, that could be a red flag," Milarsky said.
He said consumers should also be aware certified navigators don't charge for their services.