NASHVILLE - A judge won't block emergency rules covering people who dispense advice on the new health insurance exchange in Tennessee that launches today.
Chancellor Russell T. Perkins ruled Monday evening that the state's rules would not immediately do irreparable harm. He scheduled the next hearing on the lawsuit filed by the Tennessee Justice Center for Oct. 9.
The judge did say, however, that he was concerned certain language in the rules might cause "unintended consequences" and directed the defendants to "interpret these rules as strictly consistent with the federal rules ... while we get this sorted out."
The case filed on behalf of the League of Women Voters and several individuals argued that the state's rules requiring background checks for advisers was too broad and could affect a wide range of people trying to help others gain coverage.
League representative Patricia Post said after the hearing that she would have preferred the restraining order but is pleased the judge did raise some concerns.
"He's giving the attorneys on both sides of this issue another week to further develop the argument and see what happens then," she said.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has defended the rules as helping to prevent fraud. The governor told reporters after a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new hotel in downtown Nashville earlier in the day that the background check requirement is meant to protect people from fraud.
The online insurance marketplaces launching today are a major part of President Barack Obama's health care law.
Haslam said he wants the exchange to succeed despite his opposition to the overall health care law.
"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.
Tennessee is among 36 states that deferred to the federal government to run the online marketplaces.
"Certainly if it's in place, we want it to work well," Haslam said.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of the League of Women Voters and several individuals by the Tennessee Justice Center argues that the rules are overly broad because they apply not just to designated "navigators," but to anyone who might give advice on health insurance - which could include family, clergy, civic organizations or other acquaintances and advisers.
The rules authorize a fine of $1,000 per violation.
Haslam said the rules were authorized by legislation passed with wide bipartisan support earlier this year, and were enacted at the last-minute because of a delay of federal guidelines.
"It's certainly not intended to be a stumbling block," Haslam said.