New Resource for Assisters Covers Private Insurance and Marketplace Plans

Almost two months into open enrollment for the new Health Insurance Marketplaces, it is clear consumer assistance is essential to helping people understand their coverage options. Fortunately, the ACA anticipated this need by requiring the marketplaces to have Navigators who will help consumers compare options and enroll in coverage.  The Administration and states are also funding additional consumer support, including in-person assisters and certified application counselors.

As these assisters meet with consumers – across a table or over the phone – they must field a multitude of questions about plan options inside the marketplace and out, how individual and employer-sponsored coverage may change as a result of the ACA, and whether consumers have the coverage they need to satisfy the individual mandate. Today, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Center on Health Insurance Reforms (CHIR) released a Navigator Resource Guide that helps Navigators – and anyone working with consumers – explain key insurance and marketplace concepts and accurately answer a wide range of questions.

The Navigator Resource Guide includes 237 frequently asked questions (FAQs) developed in collaboration with researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It is designed to supplement the training available from the federal government and from states operating their own consumer assistance programs. It is also expected to be a “living” document – we’ll be updating it periodically to reflect changes in the rules and emerging issues for consumers.

The organizations and individuals that have signed up to assist consumers are doing heroic work under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Every day they confront balky websites, often hostile opponents of the law, and clients that may have challenging financial, health, and family circumstances. At the same time, many of these Navigators are working hard to come up to speed on all the technical details of the Affordable Care Act and how to apply them to the circumstances of the individuals they are entrusted to help. It is our hope that this Resource Guide, and its future updates, will make it easier for Navigators to do their jobs – and help consumers better understand their options and enroll in the coverage that is right for them.

The Resource Guide is part of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation project to support Navigators and other consumer assisters. In addition to the Guide, CHIR researchers will post blogs that address implementation challenges and consumer-related issues and provide technical support to consumer assistance organizations in selected states.  Check back with CHIRblog regularly for more on this project.



  • Richard Birnbaum says:

    Can the center post information about how people can obtain insurance from the exchanges once their continuing COBRA expires in 2014 – but after the exchanges are officially closed per se as of 03/31/14 for 2014 enrollment (ie. qualifying events).

    Thank you, the website is very informative

    Rich Birnbaum, Manhattan NY City

  • David Gamma says:

    I owe 4K from an operation to have 2 stents put in to help my blood flow. I was on Obama Care. I’m being hounded by collection companies. Can you help me.

    • JoAnn Volk says:

      We are unable to provide legal advice, but you may want to start by confirming with your insurer that the provider’s charges are correct. If they are, you may be able to negotiate a payment plan with the provider. You may also qualify for a financial assistance program that will help cover the cost, for example, through the hospital where you had the procedure. Depending on which state you live in, there might be laws in place to protect you from aggressive medical debt collection. Check with your local legal aid office to find out the best way to protect yourself.

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The opinions expressed here are solely those of the individual blog post authors and do not represent the views of Georgetown University, the Center on Health Insurance Reforms, any organization that the author is affiliated with, or the opinions of any other author who publishes on this blog.