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Texas Obamacare Health Care Navigators Still At Center Of Debate

Lauren Silverman

“Who are the navigators?” That’s the title of a House Oversight Committee hearing in Dallas Monday looking at the people who help Texans sign up for health insurance through the federal exchange.

Before Texas navigators began helping people enroll in health insurance when the marketplace opened Oct. 1, they were required to complete 20 hours of online training that covers specific health plans, privacy and security standards and eligibility requirements. However, they did not have to undergo criminal background checks.

Many Texas Republicans, including Representative Pete Sessions (R-Dallas), have argued the federal guidelines for navigators are insufficient.

Texas Obamacare Critics Gain Momentum

In November, critics of Obamacare found new momentum for their claims when a controversial video went viral showing a North Texas woman encouraging an applicant to lie on the health insurance application for lower premiums.

Concerns about the navigators prompted Monday’s hearing, run by committee Chariman Darrel Issa (R-Calif.), and attended by Reps Pete Sessions and Marc Veasey (D-Dallas).

More Scrutiny, New Rules

In addition to the House oversight hearing in Dallas, The Texas Department of Insurance has proposed rules that would require navigators to pass background checks and complete 40 hours of additional privacy training.

Critics of the proposed rules — which would be among the most restrictive in the country — argue they will deter consumers from seeking assistance and create an unnecessary burden for navigators.

On Dec. 20, the Texas department of Insurance will hold the first oftwo public comment hearings in Austin.

Public Comments

Comments can be submitted to TDI via e-mail and by hard copy until 5:00 p.m. on January 6, 2014.

Comments by E-mail should be sent to and to .

Written comments should be sent to:

  • Sara Waitt, General Counsel, Mail Code 113-2A, Texas Department of Insurance, PO Box 149104, Austin, Texas 78714-9104, and
  • Jamie Walker, Associate Commissioner, Licensing Services Section, Mail Code 305-2A, Texas Department of Insurance, PO Box 149104, Austin, Texas 78714-9104
Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.