By Kathryn Mayer
Navigators are going to get a big boost in the 2015 enrollment period — to the tune of $60 million.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
announced Tuesday the availability of the funds to support navigators, people that provide unbiased information to consumers about health insurance, the exchanges and public programs including Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“Navigators have been an important resource for the millions of Americans who enrolled in coverage in 2014,” CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said. “This funding ensures this work will continue next year, including during the open enrollment period for the marketplaces.”
This enrollment season, the agency said, navigators will be required to maintain a physical presence in their marketplace service area, so that face-to-face assistance can be provided to consumers. Navigator grant applicants also will be “encouraged” to perform background checks for all navigator staff that will be handling sensitive or personally identifiable information.
That move comes after the navigator program came under harsh criticism from Republicans for “unreasonably low standards” to become a navigator. Last year, lawmakers went as far as saying that the rules are so lenient that a convicted felon could qualify as a navigator and get access to consumers’ confidential health information.
Research out this week from the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that “forms of assistance involving a person,” including navigators, were the second-most helpful resource for researching PPACA health plans on the exchanges
. Brokers and agents were first.
Funding is open to eligible individuals, as well as private and public entities, applying to serve as navigators in states with a federally-facilitated or state partnership exchange. It is open to new and returning navigator applicants; applications are due by July 10.
Also read: Consumers want broker help with PPACA
Originally published on BenefitsPro.com