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SC legislator hopes to stifle Obamacare by hindering navigators

Because he can't stop registration for Obamacare in South Carolina, state Sen. Davis  hopes to stop the folks who help others register for it.
photo by Gage Skidmore, obtained from Wikipedia

If you can’t tackle an opponent on the field, then at least slow him down so that your teammates might be able to grab him and stop him from scoring.

While that sounds like advice from a football coach, it’s actually the new game plan promoted by a South Carolina legislator to stop the Obamacare.

As state Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) recently told The State’s Adam Beam:

“South Carolina … (has) an obligation to slow the spread of that infection as best (it) can until such time as Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act.”

By amending a bill introduced by the state house last year, Davis hopes to make it very difficult, and in some cases illegal, to help citizens receive medical insurance through the federal health exchange.

Any group receiving federal funding to help the public sign up for health insurance would have to be licensed and regulated by the state, Davis proposes. Employees of such groups (or “navigators”) would have to be certified according to state-declared standards, too, after undergoing training and passing a written exam, which the state would also oversee.

Just as Davis admits, the goal isn’t to regulate, but to interfere, believes Brett Bursey, executive director of the South Carolina Progressive Network, which is one of five non-profit groups in the state that received federal grant to aid the public in medical insurance enrollment.

“Were the intentions of his bill to ensure proper operation (of navigators), that would be fine. But that’s not his intentions.”

While Davis’ amendment has yet to be formally filed for the new legislative session, Bursey anticipates that unaffordable fees for navigator training from the state could be imposed, and that any written exam could be designed to ensure that few would pass such a test.

The threat to interfere has been looming, Bursey states. Shortly after beginning the project in October, he says officials with the state Dept. of Insurance have asked for the names and personal contact information of Progressive Network’s navigators. Because the state has no oversight on ACA, Bursey said Progressive Network didn’t comply with the requests.

If the bill passes with Davis’ amendment, though, it would require such compliance. Says Bursey:

“This is boilerplate ALEC legislation. Davis’ amendment is clearly intended to obstruct and impede a federal act, but while making (the obstruction) seem constitutional.”

Similar interference with ACA was attempted in another state, but with no success. In September 2013, the Tennessee Dept. of Commerce and Insurance issued an “emergency rule” that limited the amount of information navigators could provide to the public, and imposed a $1,000 fine on anyone who didn’t comply in full. A federal court blocked the rule just a few weeks later, though, because it restricted 1st Amendment rights.

Relying on U.S. Congress to make the winning tackle might be fruitless for Davis, too. House Republicansattempted to repeal the ACA 47 times, but without success.

South Carolina is tied for 13th of the 50 states in highest percentage of uninsured, with about three-quarters of a million residents having no type of healthcare insurance.

Despite having the 9th lowest household income and ranking 11th highest in poverty, the state has the 10th highest charge-to-cost markup in fees for hospital care.

Davis first became state senator by defeating an incumbent Republican in the 2008 primary race, and previously served as chief of staff for then-Gov. Mark Sanford.