Federal Court Ruling: Navigator Laws Cannot Impose Additional Requirements on Navigators and Other Assisters in Federal Marketplace States

By Tricia Brooks, Georgetown University Center for Children and Families

A federal district court ruling yesterday regarding Missouri’s navigator law has the health coverage community abuzz.  As I noted in this Say Ahhh! blog, a number of states have proposed or passed legislation to require additional training and licensing for navigators, and sometimes other assisters, and restrict the activities they are required to perform by federal law. The ruling clearly establishes that the federal law preempts state authority when state laws impose unnecessary and burdensome navigator requirements. Importantly, it calls into question the constitutionality of laws in many states.

While it is unclear whether the decision will be appealed or if court challenges will be needed for other states with similar laws to take action, the court ruling is certainly a huge step in the right direction.  Additionally, the ruling may influence current efforts in other states to pass similar legislation.

Hats off to our friends at the National Health Law Program (NHelp), which served as co-counsel for the plaintiffs including St. Louis Effort for AIDS and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, along with six others. NHeLP’s media advisory stated that “the Court emphasized that the ACA gives states a choice of operating their own Exchange or having the federal government operate the Exchange, and that when they choose the latter they can’t impose additional requirements or limitations on the exchange.”

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published on the Center for Children and Families’ Say Ahhh! Blog. For more information about state laws regulating the activities of navigators and consumer assisters, see CHIR’s blog: Under Pressure: An Update on Restrictive State Insurance Marketplace Consumer Assistance Laws, published as part of a Commonwealth Fund blog series on state action to implement the Affordable Care Act.

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The opinions expressed here are solely those of the individual blog post authors and do not represent the views of Georgetown University, the Center on Health Insurance Reforms, any organization that the author is affiliated with, or the opinions of any other author who publishes on this blog.