Thu, Dec 19 2013
Despite White House and state efforts to promote the Affordable Care Act, some people still don't have health insurance or any idea how to sign up for it.
Take Corryn Young, a 32-year-old dental hygienist in Fort Collins, Colorado. She knows she needs to get health insurance but is a little vague on the details.
"What my income would qualify me for, when I need to be signed up, what type of deductibles they have to offer - that kind of stuff overwhelms me," she says.
There are people available to help Young with all those questions. The White House has set aside more than a quarter of a billion dollars nationally to pay navigators to give people face-to-face help buying coverage and applying for new subsidies to make it more affordable.
There are navigators working at 57 assistance organizations across Colorado – everyone from county health departments to local clinics to the state trucking association. Neighboring states Nebraska and Arizona aren't embracing the health care law like Colorado is. They have just two navigator organizations each and about $2 per uninsured person to spend on assisters. Colorado has almost $24 per person.
But all the effort had netted about 23,000 customers for private insurance in the state's marketplace as of Dec. 14 – only about 17 percent of the way to the state's goal of enrolling 136,000 people by the end of March.
Navigators like Barbara Sigmon will sit down with Young and go over every aspect of her application. Colorado got some of the most money per capita of any state to hire navigators. There's generally a lot more in-person help available in states that are cooperating with the health care law than those that aren't.
'It's Starting To Pick Up'
So there are dozens of people like Sigmon across Colorado, just waiting for people to ask for help. So far, she says business is, "sort of hit and miss, it's either busy or it's pretty slow. But it's starting to pick up and gain momentum as we do more of these outreach programs, so that people know we're here."
Sigmon is at a table near the exit of a local supermarket in Colorado Springs. It was set up by Connect for Health, Colorado's new health insurance marketplace. They have brochures and little give-away notebooks, lip balm and stocking caps with Connect for Health's logo. Sigmon says lots of people have heard of the marketplace but don't know about navigators.
"And it's because all the advertising that's going on on TV is advertising for Connect for Health website, it's not advertising for us," she says. "Every person that I've had come in is saying I heard about it from my mother, my brother, my friend, whatever, and there's been a couple that come in with a newspaper."