(NASHVILLE) -- Today a federal judge extended a temporary restraining order on Tennessee's restrictive emergency rules regulating "navigator" activities under the Affordable Care Act after state officials joined the plaintiffs - a librarian, a homecare worker and Service Employees International Union Local 205 - in requesting that extension.
The judge's ruling extends the restraining order until Nov. 4 as the two sides are in settlement talks over the federal lawsuit that the plaintiffs filed Oct. 4.
"Even if state officials agreed to only apply restrictions to official navigators, we think it's important they state that they won't penalize anyone else who does public education on the new healthcare law -- rather than expect us to just assume their good will on that given what's gone on," said Doug Collier, president of SEIU Local 205. "I don't want to tell my secretary or my mama they'll get better preventive coverage under the Affordable Care Act and then get stuck with a $1,000 fine."
In the suit, Harrington v. Haslam, librarian Exie Mai Harrington, homecare worker Trumeko Foxx and SEIU Local 205 challenge the emergency rules because they put at risk the legal rights of family members, caretakers, librarians and other public servants who are not official navigators but help uninsured Tennesseans sign up for healthcare coverage on the new federal insurance marketplace.
In granting the initial temporary restraining order on Oct. 7, the federal court concluded that state officials cannot enforce a particularly overbroad section of the emergency rules that define a "navigator" as any person who facilitates enrollment of individuals or employers in health plans or public insurance programs offered through an exchange.
In addition, the judge found that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits of their First Amendment challenge that the emergency rules violate their right to free speech and association. The rules included potential fines of $1,000, and the judge agreed that such a fine would have a "chilling" effect on the plaintiffs' constitutional rights and they were likely to suffer immediate and irreparable harm unless the language was limited to actual navigators, as defined by the Affordable Care Act.
Shortly after the federal court issued the Oct. 7 ruling in Harrington v Haslam, state officials and a community group reached a separate settlement agreement that narrowed the application of the emergency rules.
"We are glad that state officials have joined us in settlement talks, too, so that we can protect the interests of public servants like Exie Mai Harrington and Trumeko Foxx who just want to help the people they serve in their jobs sign up for healthcare coverage," said SEIU Local 205 President Doug Collier.
The Service Employees International Union is the single largest labor union in North America, with a membership of over 2 million members and is one of the fastest-growing unions in the United States. In Tennessee, SEIU Local 205 represents thousands of public service and healthcare workers across the state.