Stakeholders Debate Background Checks for New Exchange ‘Assisters’
State officials are looking to hire 20,000 people to help individuals enroll in the state health insurance exchange, but there is disagreement over whether the new employees should undergo background checks and fingerprint screening, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The exchange board is expected this week to determine the requirements for background checks (Terhune, Los Angeles Times, 3/15).
California's exchange, named Covered California, primarily will serve individuals and small businesses. It is expected to open for registration in October (California Healthline, 3/14).
The state has set a goal of enrolling 1.4 million Californians in the exchange next year, with the enrollment total eventually reaching more thanÂ five million residents.
About the New Hires
The 20,000 enrollment "assisters" would not be government employees but would work for not-for-profit organizations and community groups that are collaborating with the state on outreach and enrollment for the exchange.
The assisters would have access to sensitive data on the individuals seeking health coverage throughÂ the exchange, such as:
- Dates of birth;
- Income and tax return data; and
- Social Security numbers.
Covered California has said the assisters must be thoroughly screened to help protect consumers and prevent fraud.
Concerns About Background Checks
Some observers have said that requiring fingerprinting and background checks on the assisters would be overly intrusive.
Robert Ross -- a Covered California board member and CEO of California Endowment -- said that there are people who have "turned their lives around" and who are trusted by difficult-to-reach populations. He said not having their expertise could be problematic.
Carla Saporta -- health policy director at the Greenlining Institute -- said, "Background checks would create barriers for a lot of communities of color and disproportionately exclude African-American and Latino men from participating."
Response From Insurance Commissioner
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones (D) said, "I was just shocked that groups that represent the consumer interest summarily dismiss what I think is a very real probability of immense consumer fraud."
He added, "I'm very concerned we will have a host of problems without a system of background checks, fingerprinting and monitoring, which weeds out criminals" (Los Angeles Times, 3/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.