‘Drafting Error’ Leads to Veto of Missouri Health Insurance Navigator Bill

By | July 9, 2014

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed legislation that would have limited who could work in the state as a health insurance guide and blamed a national conservative group for injecting an error into the model legislation.

The vetoed bill would have required criminal background checks for people applying for state licenses as enrollment aides for a federally run health insurance website. Anyone with past convictions involving fraud or dishonesty would have been barred from the jobs.

Missouri is one of more than a dozen Republican-controlled state legislatures that have passed measures tightening requirements for the workers known as navigators or counselors under President Barack Obama’s health care law. While the federal government does not require criminal background checks for navigators, states can set their own rules.

SB508 mirrored model legislation produced by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of conservative lawmakers and businesses that has opposed Obama’s health care law.

The organization’s website includes a draft bill requiring applicants to submit fingerprints for background checks in compliance with state laws and federal “Public Law 92-554.” The Missouri bill used that same reference to federal law.

But the federal law that is cited deals with alcohol abuse and prevention, Nixon said. The Democratic governor said the appropriate reference would have been to Public Law 92-544, which deals with federal criminal records.

Nixon, a Democrat, called that a “glaring defect” and “a significant drafting error” deserving of a veto.

“It appears that in copying and pasting from this ALEC model act, the General Assembly failed to correct this incorrect reference,” Nixon said in a written message addressed to legislators.

The mistake apparently was avoided by lawmakers in some other states. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a measure last month that omits any reference to a specific federal law when requiring fingerprints for background checks. The version signed in April by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer included the correct citation for federal law.

The legislative sponsor of the Missouri measure said he likely will try to pass a correction version of the bill next year. “The bottom line is we want to be right when we do it,” said state Sen. Mike Parson, a Republican from Bolivar.

Officials at ALEC did not immediately respond to questions about the group’s model legislation for health insurance navigators.

This marked the second consecutive year that Missouri lawmakers have attempted to set standards for the insurance guides. Last year, Nixon signed a bill requiring state licensure for the health insurance enrollment aides.

But U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith issued a preliminary injunction against it in January, saying it “constitutes an impermissible obstacle” to the federal law and thus was pre-empted by it under the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, has appealed that decision.

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