HHS is preparing to award $54 million in grants to navigators—organizations that will provide impartial information to the public about signing up for coverage on the state health insurance exchanges. Navigators are not allowed to recommend particular health plans. These grants will go to navigator organizations in states where the federal government will operate the exchanges. The states operating their own exchanges are choosing navigator groups on their own.
Navigators and other helpers called in-person assisters are expected to be critical in explaining to consumers—many of whom have never bought health insurance directly—how to apply for private or Medicaid coverage on the exchanges, how to qualify for federal subsidies and how to select a plan. In many states, insurance brokers also will receive training and be able to sell exchange coverage to consumers.
But there are widespread concerns about whether there is enough time before the Oct. 1 launch of the exchanges for adequate training of navigators. There also are concerns about the potential for conflict of interest and fraud.
Navigators could include community not-for-profit groups, chambers of commerce, tribal organizations and labor unions.