ATHENS, Ga. — Health care navigators with the University of Georgia say they’re ready to roll this week, when uninsured people can begin signing up for health insurance coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Twelve navigators wrapped up training through the University of Georgia last week, preparing to get out accurate information to people in more rural areas of the state.
The UGA navigators will be housed in UGA Cooperative Extension offices in Wilkes, Dawson and Habersham counties in northeast Georgia; Gordon, Newton, Coweta and Upson counties in northwest Georgia; Thomas County in southwest Georgia; and Johnson, Coffee and Liberty counties in southeast Georgia.
Each UGA navigator will be responsible not just for their home counties, but surrounding areas as well.
“They will help people choose coverage. They will provide unbiased information and get as many people signed up as possible,” said Sheri Worthy, head of the department of housing and consumer economics in UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences, which trained the navigators.
The UGA navigators, most of whom have master’s degrees, will also be working with small-business owners to set up employee health coverage, Worthy said.
With 1.7 million uninsured, Georgia has one of the nation’s highest percentages of adults who lack health insurance, often because they cannot afford it. Georgia also has one of the highest poverty rates in the U.S.
Up through today, navigators just provided information. Now they will begin helping people establish eligibility and actually enroll for coverage. They are also responsible for helping people find out if they qualify for the insurance affordability program.
There’s no rush for people to sign up, however. Anyone considering signing up has six months to choose coverage, through the end of March.
The best way to contact UGA navigators is to start at the new UGA health navigators Web site, uganavigators.org, Worthy said. The site also contains information about the Affordable Care Act and health insurance, and links to sites such as the federal Web site for the Affordable Care Act, healthcare.gov.
Statewide, those interested can also go to their county’s Cooperative Extension office.
“Every UGA Extension office will have information to direct uninsured consumers needing consumer education and navigation assistance with the federally facilitated health insurance marketplace exchange,” said Deborah Murray, an associate dean in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.