The Corner

Missouri Governor Vetoes Bill Establishing Background Checks for Obamacare Navigators

Missouri’s legislature passed a bill that would have established higher standards for Obamacare navigators, but Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed it on a technicality earlier this week.

CBS St. Louis reports:

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.

… The vetoed Missouri measure 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.

… 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.

That’s an unfortunate development for Missouri residents. While it’s definitely in society’s best interest to ensure former criminals have opportunities in the legitimate job sector, the federal government is compelling Americans to buy health coverage, so consumers deserve to know that their privacy is being sufficiently protected.

And there’s high black-market demand for purloined health information in particular: Politico recently reported that “while a stolen credit card or Social Security number fetches $1 or less on the black market, a person’s medical information can yield hundreds of times more.”

With that in mind, it makes sense to ensure that practiced criminals—particularly those with hard criminal skills in fraud, forgery and other financial crimes—aren’t receiving consumers’ most sensitive personal information.

Lawmakers in Missouri can and should try again to pass a bill to strengthen screening for navigators. Perhaps third time will be the charm.

— Jillian Kay Melchior is a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

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