By Scott Smith Kokomo Tribune
---- — The healthcare.gov website wasn’t working very well Tuesday, burdened by an estimated 2.8 million visitors, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
But health care consumers have another 180 days to sign up for health insurance or face a tax penalty, and a group of trained individuals, called “navigators,” are gearing up to help.
Ed Foster, who was recently laid off from a position at Community Howard Regional Health, is one of the few independent navigators listed on the Indiana Department of Insurance website.
“I’ll be trying to educate people about the marketplace, when everything is up and running,” Foster said. “This new health care plan is all new, of course.”
The open enrollment period for the ACA-created health insurance exchanges will continue through next March, but those signing up prior to the end of the year can be covered starting Jan. 1.
To avoid penalties, Foster said, individuals will have to carry coverage for the nine months next year beginning in April.
It’s a new start for Foster, who worked as a reimbursement manager at Howard, and who already has 13 years of knowledge on how the Medicare system works. He’ll start out as a volunteer navigator, hoping to catch on with an organization because of his training.
He said he’s hoping to work with the Carver Community Center and the Indiana Black Expo Kokomo chapter to put on informative meetings and to help people enroll.
As part of the ACA, state and federally-run health care marketplaces must provide trained navigators who will be able to provide unbiased information. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid set aside $54 million in grant funding for the navigators
Navigators must be qualified at the federal level, and anyone who enrolls individuals into Medicaid in Indiana must also hold a separate state certification, Foster said.
The role of the navigator is specifically spelled out in the Affordable Care Act, and the duties include conducting public information sessions and distributing fair and impartial information about qualified health plans and the availability of credits and cost reduction assistance.
A tentative list of navigators can be found at the Indiana Department of Insurance website, http://www.in.gov/idoi/files/Active_IN_Navigators_and_AOs.pdf
On the web: http://familiesusa.org/navigators-and-assisters-resource-center/