House passes bill to create license standards for health care exchange

The Georgia House passed a bill Wednesday that would require health insurance navigators to be licensed in order to help uninsured Georgians and businesses use a federally backed online health insurance exchange.

House Bill 198, introduced by Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, would establish training and licensing procedures for the navigators, whose positions are required elements of the Affordable Care Act. The navigators cannot advise consumers to opt for specific plans, but they can help consumers learn about Medicaid eligibility, federal tax subsidies and health plan options.

Under the bill, which passed 154-16, navigators would have to undergo 35 hours of training to be licensed. Some navigators would be exempt from the training if they met certain requirements. Enrollment in the federally run health care exchange will begin this fall.

Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, questioned whether the bill initiates or promotes such health care exchanges in Georgia, to which Smith — head of the House Insurance Committee — replied it does not.