Sunday, August 11, 2013

Health Exchange Navigators
Center for Public Integrity: Obamacare's Hidden Battle: Insurance Agents Push State Regulation Of Guides To New Marketplaces
When states and the federal government launch the new insurance marketplaces, or “exchanges”, on October 1, one of their greatest challenges will be reaching the very people the marketplaces are meant to help. ... Enter the navigators. The federal law directs the exchanges in each state to fund these entities, who will act like travel guides for the online marketplaces. ... The idea is that health care is complicated, so having someone walk you through the process helps. But when insurance agents and brokers first learned of the plan, some saw the navigators as government-funded competition .
Modern Healthcare: Reform Update: HHS To Award $54 Million For Navigator Training
HHS is preparing to award $54 million in grants to navigators—organizations that will provide impartial information to the public about signing up for coverage on the state health insurance exchanges. Navigators are not allowed to recommend particular health plans. These grants will go to navigator organizations in states where the federal government will operate the exchanges  

Kaiser Health News, August 9, 2013                                        

Talk  of readiness of health exchanges usually revolves around technological readiness,  having computer systems up and running to process data and applications of those 26 million uninsured out there eligible for Obamacare.  

But what about the people required to guide the uninsured to those heralded online marketplaces?   These people are called “Navigators.”   It will take thousands of them to reach, guide, and teach the uninsured. 

Who are they?  Who will train them?  How much training should they receive? Who will pay them? How much will they be paid?  How and should they be regulated? 
Starting August 15,  the government will spend $54 million to train them.  For the most part, they will be members of community groups.   They will be paid $20 to $48 an hour.  They will be trained like census workers.  Training will take 30 hours.  They will work in 16 states where the federal government runs exchanges.   Another 16 states have passed laws regulating their duties.  They cannot sell, solicit, or negotiate health plans.  They will work from mid-August through September.  They will serve as marketers of Obamacare, as agents of the government to bolster the number of uninsured signing up for the exchanges.  They are the enablers, the logistical support personnel needed to make Obamacare a reality.
Will they be ready by October 1?  Will they be effective?   They had better be: a Kaiser poll indicates 55% of the uninsured have never even heard of the exchanges. 
Is the role of these navigators, or even their existence,  controversial?   

You bet it is.  America health  agents and brokers look upon navigators as government-funded competitors,   whose rules and functions overlap what agents and brokers do. 

For that reason,  thousands of agents have been lobbying and meeting at local, state, and federal levels to question, define, and blunt the navigator movement.   The National Association of Health Underwriters, the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors have all been active in challenging and containing the concept of health exchange navigators.  
Tweet:   The federal government is spending $54 million to train “navigators” to find, guide, instruct, and direct uninsured to health exchanges.


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