Nearly $4 million is coming to a nonprofit and the University of Georgia extension service to help educate people about insurance available under the federal Affordable Care Act.
The groups also will help people get on a plan after enrollment begins Oct. 1.
In states such as Georgia, which requires additional training for people who want to serve as these licensed “navigators” to be licensed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it will work with the states but would step in if those laws prove to be a hindrance, one official said.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced $67 million in grants to 105 groups across the country to help serve as navigators for consumers under the act, also known as “Obamacare.” The groups would provide outreach and education about new options for insurance under the law and provide in-person support to those who need help enrolling, Sebelius said.
In Georgia, that will be done under two groups – the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences and Cooperative Extension Service and the Structured Employment Economic Development Corp., also known as Seedco.
UGA got $1.66 million to provide navigators, and Seedco got $2.16 million. Seedco actually will be working with 15 grassroots groups in Georgia– ranging from the Center for Black Women’s Wellness to the Jewish Family & Career Services to the Latin American Association to cover the state– not only geographically but also demographically, said Cindy Zeldin, the executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future, one of the participating organizations.
Everyone working as a navigator must complete 20 hours of training that include an emphasis on data security and privacy laws, and then pass a test to get certified initially, said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the deputy director of policy and regulation at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at HHS.
In Georgia, however, a recently imposed law requires 35 hours of training and a criminal-background check, among other provisions, in order for navigators to be certified by the state. Zeldin said the additional hours of training would need to be completed by state Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens’ office and would need to be outlined soon.
HHS recognizes that states have the authority to impose additional requirements “provided that it doesn’t affect the ability of the navigator to perform the organization’s role and that none of the provisions conflict with the ACA,” Brooks-Lasure said.
Asked when the federal government would intervene if it felt a state’s requirements were too much, she said, “At the point where it looks as though there was some hindrance to the navigator performing the role as outlined by our regulations and by the ACA.”