‘Navigators’ for the Health Insurance Exchanges Coming Soon

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

An important report on health care insurance "navigators" from the New York Times today. The Challenge of Helping the Uninsured Find Coverage:

Like many organizations across the country, Ms. Daily’s agency, Northern Virginia Family Service, is hoping to win a federal grant to help uninsured people in the state sign up for coverage under President Obama’s health care law.
With the money, she hopes to hire at least a handful of “navigators” — a
new category of worker created under the law to educate consumers about
new health insurance options and, starting in October, to walk them through the enrollment process.

Navigators are seen as crucial to the success of the law. As the Jan. 1
deadline approaches when most Americans will be required to have health
coverage or pay a fine,  navigators are supposed to explain away
confusion and fear among the legions of uninsured, helping them
understand how new health insurance markets will work and whether they
will qualify for subsidies to help with the cost of coverage
.

But as the navigator effort gets under way across the country, it is
clear that their impact will vary from state to state, with wide
discrepancies in how much will be spent to hire and train navigators and
how many people they will be able to reach. Many will be operating on
shoestring budgets, with extremely tight time frames and hostile
political climates.

“There’s definitely going to be a tremendous difference, not only in
navigators but also in marketing funds,” said Andy Hyman, senior program
officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “So what we’re going to have to see in states with fewer funds is a lot more ingenuity.”

* * *

The federal government did not anticipate having to cover the cost of
running the insurance markets in 34 states, which is why it has only $54
million — transferred from a fund for public health prevention programs
— for navigators in those states. The health care law set aside much
more money for states that built their own markets, assuming that most
would do so.

To fill in the gaps, other organizations will also be working to get the
word out and helping people sign up for health plans through the new
markets. About 1,200 community health centers around the country, which
provide medical care for the uninsured, have received a total of $150
million in federal money to help with outreach and enrollment.
Virginia’s health centers received $2.5 million.

In addition, many groups that did not apply for navigator funds will
nonetheless help educate the uninsured about their options, connect them
with navigators or point them toward the new insurance markets.

Insurance agents or brokers may also help people sign up for coverage
through the markets; insurance companies selling plans through the
markets will also play a role.

* * *

“Other local groups may have funding or be in a position to get
volunteers to do some of this work,” said Christine Barber, a senior
policy analyst at Community Catalyst, a consumer advocacy group.
“Everyone is anxious to know who the navigators are so that other groups
can partner with them, know who to refer people to, know how to flesh
out their coalitions and their outreach.”

Navigators, who will also help small businesses and their employees
learn about and enroll in health plans offered through the new markets,
cannot recommend any particular health plan or receive compensation from
an insurance company. They will get at least 20 hours of training and
take a certification test
.

* * *

Once the federal grants are awarded, recipients will have to move
quickly to hire and train navigators and set their outreach plans in
motion.

Screenshot from 2013-08-15 08:30:39
Screenshot from 2013-08-15 08:31:11

UPDATE: More on this topic at POLITICO. HHS announces Obamacare 'navigators'.

Press Release from HHS. New resources available to help consumers navigate the Health Insurance Marketplace.

UPDATE: The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports $2.1M for Arizona insurance enrollment helpers:

The awards announced Thursday by U.S.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius  include $1.3
million for statewide outreach and enrollment efforts by the Arizona
Association of Community Health Centers
. The group is the state’s
primary care association and advocates for the medically underserved and
uninsured.

Others receiving grants include the Arizona Board of Regents, Greater
Phoenix Urban League
and Campesinos Sin Fronteras. All have programs
serving minority or disadvantaged communities.

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