Wisconsin's rules requiring navigators for the Affordable Care Act -- a.k.a. Obamacare -- to be licensed and trained could be in jeopardy after a U.S. judge temporarily blocked similar rules in Missouri last week.
That's good news to Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, who says Gov. Scott Walker's rules were simply geared to throw a wrench in the health-care law.
"They're trying to frustrate the law to make it harder for people to use the exchanges to get insurance," Kraig says.
Obamacare created online portals for people to buy insurance and provided funding for navigators to direct people through the system. Conservatives have charged that people in these positions are ill-trained, that some have criminal records and that others have encouraged consumers to commit fraud.
States that have resisted the new law -- including Wisconsin and Missouri -- passed rules regulating the navigators. Wisconsin's rules call for navigators to get background checks, go through 16 hours of training and take a test, says JP Wieske, spokesman for the state's Office of the Commissioner of Insurance. He says about 700 people went through the training and 500 took the test.
Wieske defends Wisconsin's rules and says they are designed to protect consumers. "We certainly did right by our consumers," he says. "I don't think we impeded people from using the exchanges."
Last Thursday, U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith granted a preliminary injunction against Missouri's requirements to license navigators. Smith wrote: "Having made the choice to leave the operation of the exchange to the federal government, Missouri cannot choose to impose additional requirements or limitations on the exchange."
Kraig says the ruling doesn't bode well for Wisconsin's requirements. "The ruling is very broad. It says this is a federal law and the state is preempted by federal law from adding other requirements. It would be like the state adding additional requirements to getting Social Security or Medicare."
Wieske says Smith has only issued a temporary injunction and hasn't made a final ruling in the Missouri case yet. And for now, Wisconsin's rules remain in effect, he says. "Our intent is to move forward."