In the first lawsuit of its kind, several nonprofit groups that received federal grants to help people sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act are suing the state of Missouri.
The Missouri law requires health insurance helpers called navigators to be licensed by the state, which involves passing an exam and paying a fee.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the St. Louis Effort for AIDS, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, the Consumer Council of Missouri and Missouri Jobs with Justice.
They claim that various provisions of the state law "prohibit some plaintiffs from performing the duties required of them by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), prohibit other plaintiffs from providing information about health insurance altogether, and prevent plaintiffs and the Missouri public from receiving information about health insurance from the person or source of their choosing."
The plaintiffs say the Missouri law has made their work pretty much impossible. You can read the complaint here.
"Missouri has placed groups like St. Louis Effort for AIDS in an untenable situation: If they comply with Missouri statutes, they can't perform the duties the Affordable Care Act requires them to perform, but if they comply with the ACA and do perform those duties, they violate the Missouri law and are subject to thousands of dollars in penalties for doing so," says Jay Angoff of Mehri and Skalet, who is representing the plaintiffs. Angoff is a former Missouri insurance commissioner and also the former head of the federal office implementing the ACA at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Missouri is one of more than a dozen states where Republican-led governments have passed laws or otherwise taken steps to restrict insurance navigators and other in-person counselors from attempting to help people sign up for health insurance on the new exchanges.
Florida, for example, barred navigators from state offices, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry ordered strict new regulations, on top of the ones imposed by the federal government. Those include additional training and testing, and reporting the names of people enrolled to the state.