Navigators getting squeezed?

August 09, 2013

Advocates take note: Insurance agents and brokers are none too happy about the Navigator program. Pay attention to what is happening in your state regarding the regulation, or potential over-regulation, of Navigators. Agents are concerned that Navigators will compete with them for business and possibly sway individuals one way or another. It is clear that Navigators can’t say that one plan is better than the other, but what they can say is, “Here are some things you should think about to help you make your decision.”

One of the key goals of health reform is to reach diverse populations. Community organizations who incorporate the Navigator function can do that better than just about anyone else as they are often most familiar with populations needing to be enrolled in health care coverage. Over-regulation will make it harder for them to participate in the Navigator program and consequently diminish opportunities to access individuals in greatest need. Read this great article from the Center for Public Integrity on this important issue.

  • Early in the summer of 2009, when lawmakers were starting work on what would become the largest health care overhaul in decades, the industry associations that represent insurance agents and brokers caught wind of an obscure provision.

    The plan called for state and federal governments to hire so-called “navigators” — members of social service organizations, advocacy groups, even chambers of commerce — to help people use the new online marketplaces created by the law to choose among insurance plans and enroll in coverage.

    The navigator program garnered little attention in the midst of the larger legislative battle. But agents and brokers, worried that navigators would cut into their business, immediately took aim, labeling the initiative “reckless” and “ill-advised.”

    When President Obama finally signed the law in March 2010, the Affordable Care Act did include a navigator program — but that hasn’t stopped insurance agents and brokers from fighting against it. Over the past three years, the groups have waged an intense but little-noticed lobbying effort to regulate navigators in the states, leading to the passage of 16 state laws over the past year and a half. Most of the laws contain language that closely resembles recommendations that agents and brokers have been pushing in statehouses nationwide — a push receiving crucial aid from a legislators’ group focused on insurance policy that is supported with industry funds.

    Backers of the laws say they provide needed oversight of navigators by establishing state authority and common-sense regulations. But consumer advocates and some health policy experts warn that the laws could shackle the navigator program, meaning fewer people would have access to help. Continue reading here.

  • Note to Network faithful: Providing assistance to consumers shopping for coverage in the exchanges will be an important job, so how will these navigators and in-person assisters be trained? State Refor(u)m’s new chart will tell you. Great information!
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