By Paul Boyer
Arizona currently has no safeguards to protect the most sensitive information of those Arizonans for whom, open enrollment for the Federal health exchange has already begun. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) created a position of health “navigators” who will assist Arizonans in selecting insurance plans to enroll in health coverage in the new online portal. These navigators will have access to Arizonans’ social security numbers, tax information and medical history, yet we do not know if these navigators have a criminal background.
The federal government has offered to provide us with a list of names of those who work as navigators. While this is better than having no information, knowing navigators have successfully passed a criminal background check is crucial. With the assimilation of financial and health information, the stakes have never been higher that we pass this privacy protection act before individuals hand over their private information.
After all, do we really want our most sensitive information and that of our loved ones available for identity thieves without a simple protection such as a criminal background check? 23 states have already mandated background checks and Arizona should immediately do the same.
My proposal is simple. We should register and license any navigator who wants to work in Arizona through the Arizona Department of Insurance just like we already do with insurance agents. The Department ensures applicants successfully pass a criminal background check, and if this legislation passes, we will have more than just a name.
Since the exchange has gone live, the legislature should come back in a Special Session to pass this necessary legislation, as we do not want to give bad actors a window of opportunity to commit fraud. While it is always difficult to get the state legislature back to the Capitol outside of the regular legislative session, now is such a time.
I offered an amendment that would have accomplished the same goal during the last Special Session concerning Medicaid Expansion, however, my effort failed since expansion proponents received instructions to not support any unfriendly amendments. Since that is behind us, we should pass this privacy protection act now, meanwhile putting bad actors on notice they are not welcome here in Arizona.
Democrats and Republicans can agree the primary responsibility of government includes protecting its citizens. Since the federal government has not made criminal background checks a priority, it is my hope that I receive support for this protection from my colleagues in the House and Senate and we pass this privacy protection.
This is no disparagement on the Arizona Association of Community Health Centers, the Center for Rural Health, the Greater Phoenix Urban League and Campesinos Sin Fronteras, the four organizations who received navigator grants from the federal government to assist Arizonans in enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplace. However, instead of assuming no navigator has a criminal background, let’s verify navigators have a clean record by mandating a criminal background check as these other states have already done.
As much as I would like it to be, this is not a referendum on Obamacare since that must occur at a federal level. Instead, this concerns Arizona and our willingness to prevent identity thieves from exploiting and abusing Arizonans who will do so without a minimum level of protection.
So let us join these many other states, including Mr. Obama’s home state of Illinois, and prevent identity thieves from easy access to Arizonans’ most sensitive information. Failure to act would be irresponsible on our part.
Republican state Rep. Paul Boyer, vice chairman of the House Health Committee and member of the House Appropriations Committee, represents parts of Glendale and north Phoenix in Legislative District 20.