Obamacare Navigators Subject to Strict State Laws

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Subject to fines and prosecution for disclosing personal information

HELENA, Mont. – Individuals who help Montanans enroll in insurance under Obamacare this fall are subject to the same strict privacy laws governing insurance companies and are subject to fines and prosecution for failing to keep Montanans’ personal information private, Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen said Tuesday.

Montana’s Insurance Information and Privacy Protection Act covers “navigators” and “certified application counselors” and individuals who fail to comply with the law are subject to a $25,000 fine for each violation, Lindeen said. The state law may also allow Montanans to sue those who fail to keep their personal information private.

“Montanans value privacy and our laws reflect that,” Lindeen said. “My office has been in the business of protecting the personal information Montanans share with their insurance companies for years. We’re not afraid to use the full extent of the law to go after bad actors.”

Obamacare envisions several classes of “assisters” – or individuals trained to understand the federal law and help people buy insurance through the new Marketplace and sign up for federal tax credits to bring down the cost of health insurance. One of the principle assisters will be “navigators,” who will be hired this fall with federal grants awarded to each state. Certified application counselors – or “CACs” – are also assisters, most of whom will work for hospitals or other medical providers. Insurance agents can also take training to understand the law and assist.

The 2013 Legislature passed a law by wide, bipartisan margins earlier this year that empowered Insurance Commissioner Lindeen’s office to further train all assisters on the specifics of Montana law and to license all navigators, CACs and agents. The law further requires navigators to pass a background check. Lindeen’s office is in the process of rolling out the training required for all Montana navigators, insurance agents and CACs. The training includes information on the Montana Insurance Information and Privacy Protection Act, which has long applied to insurance companies and agents to safeguard Montanans’ personal information.