WASHINGTON — After several months of delays, the Obama administration awarded $67 million on Thursday to fund an army of outreach and enrollment workers known as “navigators,” who will help people sign up for coverage on the new state health insurance marketplaces beginning Oct. 1.
With less than seven weeks to go before the marketplaces start enrolling people for 2014, more than 100 navigator programs will be on a tight schedule to assemble, train and dispatch workers throughout the 34 states that will have federally run marketplaces. The 16 states that run their own marketplaces fund their own navigator programs.
As employees of universities, social service agencies, hospitals, advocacy groups, private businesses and other organizations, navigators will work with consumers to answer questions and provide unbiased information that allows people to choose health plans that fit their needs. By law, navigators cannot receive any financial compensation from insurers.
Groups receiving navigator funds include United Way programs, the Urban League, Mental Health America, the National Hispanic Council on Aging, and various universities and Planned Parenthood groups.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said navigators would undergo 20 to 30 hours of online training and must pass a certification test before they could begin work. They also must renew their certifications annually.