State of Texas Takes Steps to Force Screening Obamacare Navigators

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Dec 9, 2013

Our friends from the great state of Texas are in the news once again when it comes to employment background checks, and once again, their efforts are worthy of applause for those who support this responsible business practice.

You might recall last month the Lone Star State filed a federal lawsuit against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for their guidance on employers’ use of criminal background checks. Well last month, according to a report in The Washington Post, they are challenging the Obama administration’s stance that the Navigator’s tasked with helping people sign up for the Affordable Care Act benefits should not be subject to employment background checks.

Navigators have access to sensitive personal data

We expressed concern that failing to screen these employees could result in disastrous results and apparently, Texas Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber agrees.

After all, these navigator’s will have access to the Holy Grail of sensitive personal data (otherwise known as Personally Identifiable Information). This information includes a person’s name, Social Security number, date of birth and home address; in other words, the keys to the castle.

Under the proposed rules, Obamacare Navigators would have to prove U.S. Citizenship or their legal right to work status, submit to a background check and show evidence of financial responsibility which I can only interpret as undergoing a credit check.

“In Texas, we are being vigilant about safeguarding privacy and keeping personal information out of the wrong hands,” Rathgeber said in a statement. “These proposed rules address insufficiencies in federal regulations and make the training and qualifications of navigators in our state more readily apparent to consumers and service providers.”

A spokesperson for the federal department of Health and Human Resources countered that, “This is an attempt to add cumbersome requirements to the navigator program and deter groups from working to enroll Americans in coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace.”

Partisanship or practical business practice?

I am not naive enough to think that both sides aren’t playing the partisanship game here, but who thinks it’s responsible to hire people with access to this kind of information without properly screening them?

Failure to do so could expose those that are turning to them for help to identity that would in turn, subject both the federal government and the state to negligent hiring challenges. Politics aside, we can all agree that this is a reasonable approach to protecting everyone’s interests.

The prudent thing to do is to perform a comprehensive criminal background check and verify past employment and education. I’m not a huge advocate of credit checks, but the state is capable of making that determination on its own.

This was originally published on the EmployeeScreen IQ blog.