Navigators not ready for health care rolloutMADISON — The agency funded to help people in northwest Wisconsin enroll in health insurance programs under the Affordable Care Act, like most others in the state, won’t have certified helpers by Tuesday’s official start date, its director said.
By: Kevin Murphy/For the Superior Telegram, Superior Telegram
MADISON — The agency funded to help people in northwest Wisconsin enroll in health insurance programs under the Affordable Care Act, like most others in the state, won’t have certified helpers by Tuesday’s official start date, its director said.
Instead, Northwest Wisconsin Concentration Employment Program Inc.’s navigators won’t be fingerprinted and background checks won’t be completed until mid-October, said Brad Gingras, CEP’s director.
“Wisconsin enacted additional requirements that have delayed our process. We need to complete state and federal training. Once completed, the background checks and fingerprinting done, we’ll get our certification ... hopefully by mid-October,” Gingras said Friday.
As of Friday no navigators had been certified by the state, said J.P. Wieske, a spokesman for the Office of Commissioner of Insurance.
“The problem was the federal government delayed getting the navigator grants out until mid-August and that creates a crunch to get people hired and trained,” Wieske said.
Wisconsin received about $1 million in navigator training funds the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance didn’t’ think would train enough navigators to inform the people about their health insurance options under the new law.
“We didn’t think that the navigators alone would be able to handle all the requests for information so others are being mobilized in that effort,” he said.
About 500 people went through the state’s 16-hour training program in the past month, said Wieske. Navigators also must complete 16 hours of federal training, then pass background checks.
Wieske said the OCI is using the same background check process for navigators that it uses for insurance agents.
In addition to navigators, about 500 insurance agents have received state training on the new health care law, said Wieske and other information should be available from hospital staff and social workers.
CEP did not hire any navigators but will have 11 employees involved with the grant, however, only the equivalent of 4.5 full time employees will be trained as navigators, said Gingras.
Gingras acknowledged that setting up the nation’s most comprehensive change to funding health care has been “a fluid process,” and he didn’t fully realize how vast and complex the task would be for his agency when the grant was awarded.
Gingras didn’t want to speak about the consequences continuing national opposition has had on preparing for Obamacare’s rollout.
“There’s been opposition for lots of reasons that we don’t need to get involved in. Instead, we’re simply going to do what we can do for just as many people as possible and meet the grant’s requirements,” he said.
CEP received a $285,000 grant last month to supply trained “navigators” to provide information about insurance options available to those needing insurance or wanting to learn about plans created in response to the ACA.
The ACA requires adults to have health care insurance on Jan. 1, 2014, or face a tax penalty.
Beginning Tuesday, individuals and small business can buy insurance through exchanges the federal government has set up for states, including Wisconsin, that haven’t established their own.
CEP’s navigators won’t be able to do the outreach and education it planned to conduct beginning Tuesday, until CEP’s navigators are certified. Gingras advised those wanting to know more to visit the healthcare.gov website, which has a wide variety of information available now and will have plan and cost information available Tuesday.
CEP works in 10 northwest Wisconsin counties, with offices in Ashland, Superior, Spooner, Hayward, Ladysmith, Park Falls and Medford. Under the grant it has subcontracted with Workforce Resources, of Menomonie and Workforce Connections, of La Crosse, which will provide four more trained “navigators” to work in 17 western Wisconsin counties.