On Thursday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced $67 million in grants to 105 organizations in the 34 states who will be under the federally-run Health Insurance Marketplaces. Those groups will hire “navigators” who will help educate and provide in-person assistance to enroll people in private health plans offered in the marketplaces beginning Oct. 1.
Other states chose to run their own marketplaces and received money that can be used for their navigator programs. In some states, people have already been hired and are fulfilling those roles.
One of the two groups that got a grant to run a navigator program in Georgia, Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation or Seedco, is a national nonprofit focusing on economic development. It is already working on navigator programs in New York and Maryland and has already hired for some of them, said Brian Robinson, the senior vice president for external affairs for Seedco.
“People want jobs, this is a pretty good job, it pays reasonably well in Maryland so we’re definitely getting some applications,” he said. “We’re not having any trouble staffing up.”
As with the other states, Seedco will hire some navigators but many will be hired by the 14 community organizations partnering with Seedco to administer Georgia’s navigator program.
“The community-based partners will be hiring their own and they will have their own process for doing that,” Robinson said. In New York, for instance, the navigator job description specified a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree with at least two years of related experience, and the applicant must be proficient in Spanish. The Georgia job will be similar and will require someone who can do outreach, public speaking and education, especially at the beginning, Robinson said.
“At the beginning, it’s probably the key thing,” he said. “A lot of people don’t even know the law exists, in some cases, and a lot of people don’t know what it’s about and whether they are eligible.”
Seedco and the community partners also have 121 affiliate organization that will help with education and outreach, Robinson said.
“We plan to utilize all of these community organizations and workforce centers and health clinics and hospital associations and whatever else we can use to get the word out,” he said.
Everyone who wants to be a navigator under federal law must complete at least 20 hours of online training and pass a test to get certified initially. In Georgia, a new state law requires 35 hours of training and applicants must pass a criminal background check to get licensed as a navigator.
“We understand that and when we are hiring our staff we will abide by whatever sort of legal requirements are in place at that point,” Robinson said. “Maybe it’s a little bit extra work but obviously we will comply with whatever requirements Georgia wants us to comply with.”
A federal official on Thursday said states have the right to impose extra requirements on navigators until they become a “hindrance” to carrying out their duties.
Robinson said the navigators will be very visible as the education and outreach gets underway and intensifies next month leading up to the beginning of open enrollment Oct. 1.
“We’re trying to blanket the entire state as best we can with as much information as we can,” he said. “And hopefully that will drive people to the navigators who can help people to enroll.”