Friday, December 6, 2013
By Jessica Hall email@example.com
(Continued from page 1)
Other states also are rushing to train navigators and find ways to reach the uninsured.
In Mississippi, navigators plan to go into rural areas without Internet access to help people with the enrollment and insurance policy selection process, which is done online. In Arizona, navigators at Campesinos Sin Fronteras, or Farmworkers Without Borders, plan to be up at 3 a.m. to meet farm workers on the buses to the fields or on their lunch breaks. In the District of Columbia, a call center will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer questions because some people who may be eligible for subsidies may work several jobs and need to seek help at nontraditional hours.
The navigators must talk to people about the often uncomfortable topics of health and money. They have to hear real stories about people's income, health needs and determine if they qualify for subsidies and which level of insurance they may want to buy. For some people, not buying insurance and paying a penalty may be a better option financially.
Navigators receive no compensation from the insurance companies. They are paid with federal funds funneled through the community organization that employs them. They cannot promote one insurer over another. Instead, they are intended to be impartial guides who will help people find the insurance plan that best fits their needs and demographics.
Navigators, who will begin fielding questions Oct. 1, when enrollment in the insurance marketplaces starts, go through 20 hours of training and take more than two dozen exams from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The courses include learning the basics of the Affordable Care Act and the exchanges, cultural competence and language assistance, serving vulnerable and underserved populations, working with consumers with disabilities, community outreach, privacy and security standards, and customer service standards.
"Training gets down to the nitty-gritty of scenarios to find out what plan is best for them and their family," said Jake Grindle, health marketplace navigator and program specialist for Western Maine Community Action. "The exams require you to apply the knowledge you gain to real-world scenarios."
The navigators said they can't estimate how many people will seek help buying insurance on the exchange.
Finding the uninsured may be challenging. The state Bureau of Insurance doesn't track the uninsured by county.
"We'll be doing outreach events -- anything we can do to bring people together. We'll be talking to everyone who qualifies for various types of assistance, from Head Start to fuel assistance to free or reduced lunch programs. These programs may help identify people who lack insurance and qualify for subsidies," said Martin Sabol, director of Nasson Health Care, a program of the York County Community Action Corp. "From supermarkets to hair salons, we'll be there. It's the magic of outreach -- it's who we are and what we do. We're ready to roll it out to the people."
People who earn less than four times the poverty level, or up to about $46,000, can receive sliding-scale subsidized coverage through the online marketplace. Other individuals making more can still buy insurance on the exchange, but won't receive subsidies.
Not everyone is going to buy insurance. Some may choose to pay the penalty. The annual penalty for a single adult would be $95 in 2014, rising to $625 by 2016.
"Lobstermen, typically, (are) a group of people who don't have experience with insurance. The penalty may be the choice for a lot of people," said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen's Association, which aims to reach out to 6,000 lobstermen throughout the coast with the insurance information.
(Continued on page 3)