Sunday, January 5, 2014

Senators Kelsey and Bell ask State Attorney General to join multi-state efforts to curb federal abuse of power over Obamacare rules

NASHVILLE, Friday, Jan. 4, 2014 -- State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and State Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) today called on Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper to join his counterparts in eleven other states in asking Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to go through proper channels before changing rules for the federal health care plan commonly referred to as Obamacare.  Attorney Generals in West Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia wrote Sebelius a letter last week expressing concern that HHS has proposed a rule that “both compounds illegal executive action and fails to protect the privacy of consumers using the health insurance exchanges.”

Kelsey and Bell also urged Cooper to file a lawsuit with other attorney generals based on the problems enumerated by the letter, particularly as it concerns illegal rules that have not been authorized by congressional action.  The lawmakers said this includes enforcement of some parts of the federal healthcare law, while delaying other provisions in violation of constitutional authority.

“Tennesseans are concerned with the illegal action being taken by the Obama administration without congressional approval,” said Senator Kelsey.  “The only way Tennessee can enter into a lawsuit is if the Attorney General decides to. That is why I am calling on General Cooper to fight Obamacare today by challenging these illegal decisions.”

“The overstepping of authority in regards to Obamacare rules has been breathtaking,” added Senator Bell.  “Our citizens’ privacy is greatly compromised as a result of these rules.  The overreach of power will continue unless states challenge these actions through the courts.”

The attorney generals objected to five major administrative directives:

  • Although they support allowing citizens to keep their cancelled health insurance plan, the attorney generals wrote that they only way to legally fix the problem is through congressional action rather than administrative rule.
  • They asked HHS to implement commonsense safeguards to protect the security of consumers’ private information throughout the enrollment process on the healthcare exchanges.
  • They called for rigorous training requirements and accountability for all programs using those governing state-licensed insurance agents and brokers as models to ensure a basic proficiency regarding consumers’ health insurance options.
  • They asked for explanation regarding help for defrauded consumers whose personal information was improperly shared, including clarification of liability when the information is wrongly disclosed.
  • They asked HHS to work in partnership with state consumer protection efforts.  In particular, they asked for clarification regarding federal requirements so they do not bar states from imposing certification and licensing requirements like surety bonds and acts-and-omissions insurance, on non-profit assistance groups who are not licensed agents or brokers.

“It is not enough simply to adopt vague policies against fraud. HHS has given its stamp of approval to every counselor who interacts with a consumer,” the letter from the attorney generals said.  “This position of trust has allowed counselors to gain access to a wide variety of personal information from unsuspecting consumers. Unscrupulous counselors, who are not properly screened out or supervised, have easy means to commit identity theft on consumers seeking enrollment assistance.”

“We believe Tennessee’s Attorney General should act to protect healthcare consumers in Tennessee from this disastrously flawed law,” Kelsey concluded. 

Kelsey is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, while Bell is Chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee.

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