Texas Requires Healthcare “Navigators” to Submit to Criminal Background Checks

By Michael Klazema on 1/29/2014

In one of the more surprising background check trends to come along in the past few years, the United States government last fall launched its federalized healthcare plan, the Affordable Care Act (known in most circles as Obamacare), employing a slew of people to help operate the system, but failing to run criminal background checks on many of them. The workers in question, referred to by President Obama and throughout the media as “healthcare navigators,” are meant to help citizens from all over the country “navigate” the online Obamacare system and enroll in healthcare plans.

The system is a complicated one, a marketplace exchange of sorts where users are given all manner of different healthcare insurance companies and policies to choose from. Believing correctly that many would be overwhelmed by the online system, the federal government swiftly hired tens of thousands of navigators to advise people on which healthcare policies would best suit their unique needs. However, without background checks, those same navigators could become more of a dangerous liability than a friendly help. When called to help a citizen with the health insurance system, a navigator is given automatic access to that person’s sensitive personal information, including their name, address, social security number, and more. In other words, the navigator position is an identify thief’s dream job.

To make matters worse, there is no federal requirement or mandate that insists on criminal background checks for navigators, meaning that dangerous and untrustworthy employees could slip through the cracks. The lack of criminal background checks is a major oversight that has led many journalists, politicians, and private citizens to believe that the Obama Administration pushed the Affordable Care Act into effect before the online exchange system was ready.

That belief is shared by the Texas state government, which recently approved a new law that will require all healthcare navigators working inside the state to submit to full criminal background checks prior to being given access to sensitive customer information. In addition to background checks and identity confirmation tests, the new measure – approved by the Texas Department of Insurance – will also mandate that navigators receive extra training to serve within the state of Texas.

John Corwyn, a United States Republican Senator from Texas, had some choice words for the federal government’s botched handling of the healthcare system. In a statement published following the successful adoption of the new Texas background check measures, Corwyn said he was proud of Texas for “taking the steps” that the federal department of Health and Human Services have thus far neglected to take. He expressed his belief that any employees paid for with taxpayer money – a collective group to which healthcare navigators belong – should be subject to background checks. The fact that navigators are given access to sensitive customer information, Corywn argued, only makes the pre-employment screening process that much more important.

Texas is not the only state that has proposed criminal background check restrictions for healthcare navigators, and will undoubtedly not be the last to sign such restrictions into law. As more citizens are made aware that their information is at the fingertips of potentially unsavory people, the outcry calling for state and nationwide criminal background checks will likely grow. State governments may also be wise to implement social security validation checks – screening tests available through – in order to sniff out potential fraudsters or identity thieves.


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