Local Health Care Navigator Reacts to Lawsuit Against State

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COLUMBIA - Some non profit groups and doctors recently sued the state of Missouri and a local navigator said he thinks it stems from burdensome state requirements for navigators.

The plaintiffs of the lawsuit claim the "Health Insurance Marketplace Innovation Act of 2013" violates federal law. While the federal government trains and certifies health care navigators, states can enforce more requirements as long as they don't prevent the Affordable Care Act from being applied.

The lawsuit claims Missouri's state licensing law violates the health care law by restricting advice navigators can give to consumers. It also claims the law violates the U.S. Constitution because it requires any organization where health insurance might be discussed be licensed by the Department of Insurance.

Aaron Swaney is a certified navigator for the Family Health Center. He said he thinks the lawsuit mainly stems from the frustration of the state licensing process.

"I know other places that are federally certified have had a lot of issues going through the state licensing process even though they've already got their federal license so I think that's what has been frustrating for them and that's where the lawsuit comes from," Swaney said.

He said the state law wasn't an issue for the Family Health Center and said he supports state licensing because it makes navigators more prepared to assist consumers.

"Our job is to walk people through the application process and walk them through all the details of the Affordable Care Act and the way insurance is changing," Swaney said. "Its important to actually know all those things before you go in and meet with a customer."

Some of the groups bringing the suit include St. Louis Effort for AIDS, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, the Consumers Council of Missouri, Missouri Jobs with Justice, and some retired physicians. KOMU 8 News reached out the Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid Missouri to see if they supported the lawsuit, but the organization refused to comment on the issue.

Swaney said he is uncertain if the lawsuit will lead to changes in Missouri's health care licensing law.

"It remains to be seen," Swaney said.