Only days after SEIU Local 205 and two of its members filed a lawsuit in Federal court and held a press conference, a federal judge blocked the state of Tennessee from enforcing part of the “emergency rules” regulating the actions of people seeking to sign up the uninsured for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
The state’s new rules could have fined individuals $1,000 per occurrence for basic assistance in learning about and signing up for the Affordable Care Act by classifying them as a “navigator,” even though navigators are clearly defined in the ACA’s federal regulations.
“This is a victory for free speech and the rule of law,” said Exie Harrington, a Nashville Public Library employee who is one of the plaintiffs in Harrington vs. Haslam. “Now I can assist patrons and make sure they are able to find the resources they need to make their own healthcare decisions without fear of being fined.”
“These ‘emergency rules’ were never about protecting people from fraud, this was a political game by the Governor and his allies,” said Doug Collier, President of SEIU Local 205, one of the plaintiffs in the complaint. “We believe it is every American’s right to have access to affordable health care and we are not going to let him play political games with people’s lives.”
The lawsuit alleges that the state’s “emergency rules”:
- Violate federal and state constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of association because they curtail First Amendment rights due to the threat of being subjected to considerable fines and penalties;
- Are not valid because family members, friends, neighbors or healthcare workers are not “navigators” as defined by the law;
- Would prevent people like nurses, doctors or homecare workers like the plaintiffs from assisting people with disabilities without undergoing the state’s onerous registration process, and therefore violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The temporary restraining order will be in place for 14 days. The plaintiffs will seek to extend the court’s order by asking for a preliminary injunction to ensure that non-navigators are not penalized for providing assistance to friends, family members, and neighbors, to name a few.
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