Obstacles Extend to States
Like Wyoming Senior Citizens, many social service agencies, health organizations, and religious groups have received government grants to offer navigator-type services to their communities. And like other parts of the Affordable Care Act, navigators have become a hot topic in political circles, especially in states dominated by legislators who aren't friendly to the Affordable Care Act.
Florida officials have debated whether navigators will get access to private information. In Ohio, officials created regulations that blocked navigators from quickly becoming certified to do their jobs.
The Ohio Association of Foodbanks, which received a federal grant of more than $3 million to provide helper services through a coalition of 12 organizations, has sent about 32 navigator employees through training and certification, executive director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt says. The association expects to reach the target of 40 helpers soon.
Like her counterparts in Nebraska and Wyoming, Hamler-Fugitt says the problems at healthcare.gov haven't been a major problem for her organization's helpers. That’s partly because they're focusing now on reaching out to groups and scheduling one-on-one meetings for November, she says. It also helps that consumers aren't looking to make a quick choice. "This is a major decision for people, and they need to do their homework," she says.
Healthcare.gov can now show various health plan options to consumers who aren't ready to log in but still want to see which options are available. (On healthcare.gov, click on "See Plans Now.")
Help on the Way?
While the navigators try to make the best of the situation, the secretary of Health and Human Services called the rollout “a debacle” this week. Testifying at a House committee hearing Wednesday, Kathleen Sebelius apologized for the frustration Americans have felt because of the “flawed launch of Healthcare.gov.”
The Obama administration has brought in a special adviser to lead efforts to fix the system. Jeffrey D. Zients, who was the chief performance officer for the Office of Management and Budget, says it will take until the end of November to work out all the bugs.
As the serious technical problems linger, Ohio's Hamler-Fugitt said the nation has been down this road before.