State officials say they’re concerned the navigators, who are required by the federal government to get 20 hours of online training and pass an exam, will know too little to be helpful. They also worry about their access to private information, such as Social Security numbers.
But the law’s proponents see the restrictions as simply the latest GOP effort to impede the rollout of the law known as Obamacare, and worry they will dampen enrollment.
“This is just the latest obstacle that opponents of the Affordable Care Act are using to try to slow down implementation,” said Christine Barber, senior policy analyst with Community Catalyst, a Boston-based nonprofit helping states with enrollment.
“It’s having a chilling effect already as some organization are nervous to help with enrollment because of all the obstacles placed in their path,” she said.
At least four groups have declined federal grants as a result of state restrictions while others are rethinking their roles. A West Virginia agency returned $365,000 after it was asked extensive questions about its hiring and personnel practices by the Republican West Virginia attorney general. “There were unforeseen circumstances,” said Pat Haberbosch, executive director of West Virginia Parent Training and Information, Inc.
Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati also declined its grant because the state barred groups from serving as navigators that negotiate with health plans. And Texas-based Cardon Outreach is turning back $800,000 to hire guides in Florida, Oklahoma, Utah and Pennsylvania because of state scrutiny, according to an Associated Press report.
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a consumer advocacy group that supports the law, called the efforts a “conspiracy” designed “to keep down the numbers of people who get enrolled.”
Why Navigators Matter
Navigators are considered crucial to the success of Obamacare because they are supposed to help consumers sort through a maze of insurance options and figure out whether they’re eligible for federal subsidies or perhaps free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid. Polls show many people know very little about these options.
Wed, Sep 18 2013