Judge denies TRO on rules for insurance exchange ‘navigators’

The day before the federal government unveils virtual marketplaces where people can buy health insurance, a Davidson County chancellor denied a temporary restraining order on state rules limiting who can advise insurance shoppers.

Chancellor Russell T. Perkins said he has “serious questions to the merits” of the emergency rules OK’d by the state Sept. 18, but he said he is unconvinced the rules dictating who is a recognized health insurance exchange “navigator” would do irreparable harm.

“If somebody’s rights end up getting chilled because of this, that’s not the intent of this order at all,” he said of his decision at the hearing Monday.

The case, filed by the League of Women Voters and a handful of others by the Tennessee Justice Center, argued the rules are "extremely broad" and violate free speech by requiring anyone advising or helping others make decisions on health insurance plans be registered and submit to background checks. Violation of the rule means a $1,000 fine.

The state argued the rules are in place to protect against “bad actors” who would engage in fraudulent activity, particularly as the federal government rolls out the new offering.

“We both want what’s best for the consumers of this state,” said Bill Young, a state solicitor general. "We want them to get the information they’re entitled to, but at the same time, we want to make sure that no one takes advantage of that situation.”

Chancellor Perkins said he could be convinced down the road to support a temporary injunction of the emergency rules, but said he would let them go forward for now.

“Everybody gets to fight another day,” he said.

The two parties are due back in court Oct. 9.

Gov. Bill Haslam — who stood by the emergency rules when speaking to reporters Monday morning — said the insurance industry is concerned whether there are enough regulations in place as is, and suggested the Legislature could take up bills next year to address that.

"The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land right now, and whether I agree with it or not doesn't matter," Haslam said. "Certainly if it's in place, we want it to work well."