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Legal Aid Navigators help consumers work through the healthcare marketplace

Thursday, December 12, 2013

  • Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma
  • Source: Oklahoma > Advocate Resource Center

Enrollment in the federal marketplace in November was more than four times greater than October's reported federal enrollment number, according to The U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

More Oklahomans are signing up.  Since October, an estimated 1,673 Oklahomans have selected health insurance plans through the federally run marketplace.

Now is the time for individuals and families to visit to choose a private plan by Dec. 23rd.  Need help with the application process?  An Oklahoma navigator can help consumers log into the website, create an account and sign up in the healthcare marketplace.

The federal health care law created a special category of workers known as navigators, who are trained to help consumers explore their insurance options and enroll in a plan, according to Kaiser Health News. The navigators play a key role in the Affordable Health Care success because they can help consumers determine whether they qualify for federal subsidies or, if eligible, free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid.

Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma has 15 health care navigators in communities across the state to help low income persons and seniors work through the healthcare marketplace.

The navigators cannot steer consumers toward a specific policy or collect their personal information, said Gayla Machell, coordinator of the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma’s navigator project.

“This is a very safe process,” she said

Kaiser Health News noted that Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak warned navigators that they cannot play the same role as state-licensed insurance agents.

“Consumers can feel confident working with licensed agents and brokers and sharing their personal information,” Doak said earlier this year. “These individuals are trained, tested, background checked and insured. Navigators are not regulated by the Insurance Department and cannot provide these assurances. If they perform any of these duties restricted by law to our licensed agents and brokers, we will put a stop to it.”

Machell said navigators are complying with federal rules governing what they can say and do.

“We’re not writing policies,” she said. “We’re not even recommending policies. We’re just helping consumers work through the system.”

“The ones who have gotten through and completed the process are thrilled,” she said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, for coverage to begin January 1 consumers must enroll in a health insurance plan by December 23rd.  The open enrollment period is six months long and continues through March 31, 2014.

In Oklahoma, call 2-1-1 to get the contact number and location of a HealthCare Navigator in your area.

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