Affordable Care Act: Who Will Help You Sign Up?
4. What other kinds of helpers will be available?
Other helpers include in-person assisters and certified application counselors, who are available only in certain states.
In-person assisters are similar to navigators. The difference is their jobs are funded differently from navigators.
Certified application counselors work for community health centers, hospitals, nonprofits like churches and labor unions, and non-federal government agencies. They will help you understand, apply, and enroll for health coverage through the Marketplace. They must complete 5 hours of training and comply with privacy laws and other standards.
5. What about insurance agents and brokers?
Agents and brokers can also help people sort out their options in the Marketplaces. The rules for agents and brokers are different in each state. They all must go through the same training as navigators, though.
6. Will there be enough helpers for everyone?
It's not clear. The work of navigators has become a political issue in the continuing battle over health care reform.
At least 17 states have set up rules for navigators or are thinking about doing so. Some states are requiring navigators to be licensed or certified, and several have approved rules limiting the guidance they can give to consumers.
Supporters of the Affordable Care Act, like professor Robert Field, think the requirements are an attempt to make it hard for people to become navigators and enroll consumers. It "doesn't make sense" to require them to need the same licenses as insurance agents and brokers because they serve a different role, he says. Field is a professor of law and health management policy at Drexel University.
But the citizens, officials, and lawmakers who have pushed for restrictions argue that they're protecting consumers. "If we are going to have to endure the Affordable Care Act, then we need to make sure that people aren’t taken advantage of," Arkansas State Sen. Jason Rapert, a Republican, says in an interview with Pew Charitable Trusts.
7. Where can I find help?
Start at healthcare.gov, the federal government's web site for information about Marketplaces. If you live in a state that is running its own Marketplace, it will take you to that web site. If you live in one of the 34 states where the federal government is running the Marketplace, it has a lot of information to help you.
You can also go to localhelp.healthcare.gov, which gives you a list of groups that can help near your home. Just enter your ZIP code or city and state. Hospitals, clinics, religious organizations, and community groups are expected to sponsor events where assisters will be present.