Navigators are federally funded counselors who are trained to help people understand their options under the Affordable Care Act.
Navigators provide one-on-one counseling for people trying to use healthcare.gov to find, choose and purchase insurance. Navigators will also generally educate people about health care and the ACA. They are not funded by insurance companies, and so they are not trying to sell anything. Rather, they are supposed to be an unbiased resource for people considering their options for health insurance. Some navigators are also doing public presentations at libraries and community centers.
In Mid-Missouri, there will be about 20 navigators, but not all of them have gone through the training process so far. Currently there are nine navigators who have completed their training. There are about 95 navigators statewide.
In order to be a certified navigator, a person must go through federal training, receive federal certification, and then receive additional state certification. There are Missouri navigators in all different stages of the process, but the healthcare market opened Oct. 1.
“Everybody's paddling as fast as they can,” said Jean Leonatti, CEO of Central Missouri Area Agency on Aging. “...We already have navigators who are ready to go but certainly in the next few weeks we’ll probably have a lot more because it's just a process of getting through some of this paperwork that we have to have in place.”
Missouri received $1.8 million from the federal government for the navigator programs, which put the state. in the lower category compared to other states.
The Missouri Foundation for Health also contributed $5 million for organizations to have certified application counselors, along with an additional $1.8 million for awareness activities throughout Mo. Certified application counselors are not official navigators, but they have gone through the training and are able to help consumers and give advice.
There are dozens of organizations with trained people who can help navigate the healthcare marketplace, but here are the ones in mid-Missouri:
- Central Missouri Area Agency on Aging (573) 443-5823
- University of Missouri system dba Missouri Kidney Program (573) 882-2506
- Family Health Center of Boone County (573) 214-2314
- Knowledge Management Associates (573) 817-8338
- Primaris (573) 817-8300
“Be careful about scams that might be coming online,” Leonatti said. “You do not have to pay for the services that are provided by these navigators and these counselors.”
To make sure you are speaking with a licensed navigator or counselor, you can go to one of the organizations listed above or check at this website.
Jean Leonatti was on a recent episode of KBIA's talk show, Intersection. To hear more about what she had to say about navigators and the Affordable Care Act, watch or listen to the show here.