Sen. Kirk Watson is pushing back against Gov. Rick Perry’s call for stricter requirements for insurance navigators, saying it distorts the meaning of his original bill and makes it more difficult for Texans to get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

“I authored Senate Bill 1795 to make it easier for Texans to get health insurance, not harder,” Watson said in a statement. “This is a tool to improve our healthcare system, not dismantle it even further.”

The federal government has distributed nearly $11 million to Texas groups to help train so-called navigators to guide people through the enrollment process. Yesterday, Gov. Perry sent a letter to Texas Department of Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber, directing the department to create state-specific rules for navigators. On top of federal requirements that include 20 to 30 hours of training and annual certification tests, Perry wants to require applicants to show proof of citizenship, take an additional 40 hours of coursework, submit to fingerprinting and periodic background checks.

Perry says TDI has the authority to make the changes under Senate Bill 1795, which was authored by Democratic Sen. Kirk Watson, who says the law was never intended to be used in such a way.

“It’s not clear to me that all of the Governor’s instructions are even allowed under this bill or other state or federal law,” Watson said. “He’s twisting the meaning of protecting consumers to fulfill a political agenda. This will hurt Texans who need healthcare far more than it helps him in some GOP primary.”