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Published: Wednesday, 10/16/2013 - Updated: 9 months ago

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

Outreach workers being trained

‘Navigators’ will help others with marketplace

BY MARLENE HARRIS-TAYLOR
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Health-care outreach worker Robin Deters persisted, and after many attempts she successfully enrolled in a health insurance plan on the healthcare.gov Web site.

She has been without health insurance for 18 years, and now she and her husband have coverage and have qualified for a “considerable amount of tax subsidies and credits” to help cover the cost of their new silver plan, Ms. Deters said.

“[The site went] down on me several times but finally on Sunday I got through it,” she said.

Ms. Deters is one of four outreach workers hired with grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and given to nonprofit agencies for training of outreach workers and “navigators” to provide free information about the health-care marketplace to consumers.

The program is connected to the implementation of national health-care coverage given by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Ms. Deters is gearing up to go out and speak to church and community groups in the Toledo area and help others better understand the nuances of the exchange program.

She will soon be joined by three additional outreach workers and 16 navigators, who will help consumers enroll in coverage.

Workers will begin a training program today at the Neighborhood Health Association that is expected to last about two weeks.

The Neighborhood Health Association and CareNet are the two agencies that will train navigators for the Lucas, Williams, Fulton, Defiance, Henry, and Wood county areas.

“Their job is to guide and assist but not to give advice on any specific product,” said Anna Gartner, training coordinator for the Neighborhood Health Association.

The training includes completion of a self-directed curriculum on a Web site designed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

It include 26 modules and 12 exams that take about 20 hours to complete, said Ms. Gartner.

Doni Miller, chief executive officer of the Neighborhood Health Association, estimates those trained will be available by Nov. 1 to begin assisting the public.

The navigators will be stationed at one of the nine Neighborhood Health Association sites in Toledo and at three other sites in Northwest Ohio: The Fremont Community Health Center, Family Health Services of Erie County, and a undetermined location in Wood County.

Navigators will assist individuals on a first come-first serve basis except for special circumstances, at which time appointments will be scheduled.

Jan Ruma, CareNet executive director, also plans to hire six part-time navigators with the grant money.

CareNet is one of 12 nonprofit agencies in Ohio chosen by the Ohio Association of Food Banks to help implement a $1.6 million grant it received for the training, said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the food bank.

She said there were delays in releasing the federal money to Ohio agencies and as a result their partners, such as CareNet, are just beginning to hire navigators.

“We are feeling really good that we will have the program operationalized by Nov. 1,” Ms. Hamler-Fugitt said.

The Health Insurance Marketplace is open for enrollment through March 31.

Consumers must sign up by Dec. 15 for coverage to begin Jan. 1.

Contact Marlene Harris-Taylor at: mtaylor@theblade.com or 419-724-6190.



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