Here’s Walter Jones explaining to Tim Bryant at Fox News Radio WGAU what a navigator is.
By Walter C. Jones
Morris News Service
ATLANTA – Only two organizations will supply people to help an estimated 1.9 million Georgians pick a health plan under ObamaCare, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday.
Florida will be served by eight organizations and South Carolina by three.
At the same time, Attorney General Sam Olens joined his counterparts in 12 states raising alarms that the program doesn’t have adequate privacy safeguards.
When the federal department begins operating Georgia’s health exchange Oct. 1, individuals and small businesses will have a choice of 20 plans offered by five insurers. The federal Affordable Care Act, known as ObamaCare, empowers the department to provide grants to train and pay “navigators” who will assist people in making those choices.
Thursday’s announcement unveiled the 105 groups that will supply the navigators. The total number of navigators isn’t yet known.
Only the University of Georgia’s extension service and the Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation, or SEEDCO, will serve the Peach State, and department officials declined to release the number of organizations that applied and were turned down.
SEEDCO is a national outfit geared to helping the poor and will recruit other organizations in Georgia and Tennessee, such as the Atlanta-based advocacy organization Georgia Watch.
UGA and SEEDCO will have $3.2 million to work with while the groups in Florida will have a combined $7.7 million, and the trio of groups in South Carolina will split $1.9 million. The department is making a total of $67 million available nationwide.
The naming of the groups supplying the navigators triggers the next step in the process in which they’ll begin their 20 hours of HHS training and 10 hours of state training. Georgia law requires additional instruction and a test.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters she was confident the navigators would complete their training in time to begin helping people Oct. 1.
“We know there’s a lot of work to do, but we’ll be ready for whatever comes up, testing and retesting our systems, monitoring feedback and responding appropriately,” she said.
One of the five private insurers announced Thursday it’s also gearing up with the hiring of 750 workers in Atlanta and Columbus.
BlueCross and BlueShield of Georgia just won the contract to administer insurance coverage for state workers, including teachers and other public school workers.
But 13 attorneys general say one aspect isn’t ready, the privacy protections of people seeking help from navigators. They wrote Sebelius to call for more training and oversight of the navigators, including criminal background checks and fingerprints.
“We are now discovering that ObamaCare will not only harm consumers’ pocketbooks, but it will also put them at serious risk of identity theft and fraud,” Olens said. “HHS must implement an on-the-ground plan to secure consumer information, follow up on complaints and work with law enforcement to prosecute bad counselors. Otherwise this is a disaster waiting to happen for Georgia consumers.”
When asked by reporters about the concerns of the attorneys general, the HHS official over the navigator program, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, said the organizations getting the grants will supervise the navigators and deal with consumer complaints.
“As part of being a grantee, there are many requirements and ongoing metrics that navigators will need to adhere to,” she said.
Follow Walter Jones on Twitter @MorrisNews and Facebook or reach him at email@example.com