Navigators, counselors to act as guiding hands for Affordable Care Act

By: Jenny You Email
By: Jenny You Email

Highlighted are the 27 counties covered under the grant project with CEP, Inc.
PINK - Northwest Cep, Inc. - Ashland, WI
BLUE - Workforce Resources Inc. - Menomonie, WI
YELLOW - Workforce Connections Inc. - La Crosse, WI

(WEAU) -- The Affordable Care Act is considered the most comprehensive change to the nation's health care delivery system since Medicare. That's why navigators and counselors are training to act as guides to help you through the process.

Several agencies through Wisconsin, including Northwest Wisconsin Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (CEP), received federal grants to support navigators. CEP, Inc. received a $285,035 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help people enroll for health insurance through Exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

According to CEP, the project will serve uninsured and under-insured people in addition to small businesses through 27 counties in Northwest and Western Wisconsin. Exchange Navigator services will be provided at 21 Wisconsin Job Centers and do outreach at libraries, senior centers, college campuses and community centers. One of the locations a navigator will be located is the Chippewa Co. Job Center. CEP, Inc. says it hopes by mid-October, the navigators will be ready for outreach and information sessions to answer people’s healthcare questions.

“The workforce investment boards of Northwest Wisconsin, West Central Wisconsin and Western Wisconsin are hoping that by providing these services through this grant, that small businesses and workers will be served better with health care,” said finance director of CEP, Inc. Marcia Pratt.

Nine navigators are currently training online to understand the Affordable Care Act. This ultimately will help them “navigate” people to the right health plan.

“The navigators will be trained to assist people one on one and through informational sessions so that they can go to the Marketplace, understand better what the Marketplace is going to offer them, understand how they can get insurance, why they should get insurance, when the insurance will start and all the different tax breaks they possibly can get,” explained Pratt.

Those that didn’t receive grants like the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic in Eau Claire have volunteers who are interested in training to become Certified Application Counselors.

According to a national survey commissioned by Enroll America, in October 2012, they found 75 percent of those surveyed wanted in-person assistance to help apply for and enroll in health coverage.

“75 percent of people said they really would like to have that one-on-one person that could counsel them and get them through the process of signing up for health insurance through the health market and Exchange, so it just makes sense to have some people that have some training to be there to help out with the whole process,” said Dr. Kenneth Adler, MD, the founder and volunteer for Chippewa Valley Free Clinic.

He said there are upcoming training sessions that take around 16 to 20 hours to complete in order to become a CAC.

According to HHS regulations, every Exchange must have a CAC program, with similar training as Navigators.

“Just to help people go through the process, it's not as complicated a process as you think but for each individual person it’s going it be a little different process and they'll have different options they'll have to look at,” said Adler who mentioned the different ways to apply for insurance whether it's online or via telephone.

He said the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic hopes to have CACs trained by October 1st. October 1st is the starting date for people to enroll for coverage in the health insurance Marketplace in Wisconsin.

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