Bell urges curbing ACA rule changes
by Special to the Banner
Jan 05, 2014 | 948 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
NASHVILLE — State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and state Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, on Friday called on Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper to join his counterparts in 11 other states in asking U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to follow established channels before changing rules for the federal Affordable Care Act.

Attorney Generals in West Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia have submitted formal letters to Sebelius expressing concern that HHS has proposed a rule which “both compounds illegal executive action and fails to protect the privacy of consumers using the health insurance exchanges,” according to a joint statement released by Bell and Kelsey.

The pair of state senators also urged Cooper to file a lawsuit with other attorney generals based on the problems enumerated by the letter, particularly as it concerns “... illegal rules that have not been authorized by congressional action,” the senators cited.

The lawmakers said this includes enforcement of some parts of the federal health care law, while delaying other provisions in violation of constitutional authority.

“Tennesseans are concerned with the illegal action being taken by the Obama administration without congressional approval,” Kelsey said. “The only way Tennessee can enter into a lawsuit is if the Attorney General decides to. That is why I am calling on General Cooper to fight Obamacare today by challenging these illegal decisions.”

Bell also weighed in on the request coming out of Nashville.

“The overstepping of authority in regard to Obamacare rules has been breathtaking,” Bell said. “Our citizens’ privacy is greatly compromised as a result of these rules. The overreach of power will continue unless states challenge these actions through the courts.”

The attorney generals pointed to five key administrative directives on which they have concerns:

n Although they support allowing citizens to keep their canceled health insurance plans, the attorney generals wrote that the only way to legally fix the problem is through congressional action rather than administrative rule.

n They asked HHS to implement “commonsense safeguards” to protect the security of consumers’ private information throughout the enrollment process on the health care exchanges.

n They called for rigorous training requirements and accountability for all programs using those governing state-licensed insurance agents and brokers as models to ensure a basic proficiency regarding consumers’ health insurance options.

n They asked for explanation regarding help for defrauded consumers whose personal information was improperly shared, including clarification of liability when the information is wrongly disclosed.

n They asked HHS to work in partnership with state consumer protection efforts. In particular, they asked for clarification regarding federal requirements so they do not bar states from imposing certification and licensing requirements like surety bonds and acts-and-omissions insurance, on nonprofit assistance groups who are not licensed agents or brokers.

Bell and Kelsey alluded to the letter by the 11 attorney generals in pointing out, “It is not enough simply to adopt vague policies against fraud. HHS has given its stamp of approval to every counselor who interacts with a consumer. This position of trust has allowed counselors to gain access to a wide variety of personal information from unsuspecting consumers. Unscrupulous counselors, who are not properly screened out or supervised, have easy means to commit identity theft on consumers seeking enrollment assistance.”

Kelsey added, “We believe Tennessee’s Attorney General should act to protect health care consumers in Tennessee from this disastrously flawed law.”

Kelsey is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, while Bell is chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee.