NEWS: Journal News: Some N.Y. health exchange ‘navigators’ yet to reveal help sites

September 18, 2013

NY Navigators’ Readiness Problems Underscore Need for Oversight to Protect Taxpayer Dollars and Sensitive Medical Information

The Journal News reports, “Many groups that received taxpayer funds… say they are not yet ready to tell the public where that help can be found.”

With less than two weeks until the health care law exchanges are scheduled to open and begin selling health insurance, many questions remain about the administration’s readiness. The Journal News reports in New York, “many organizations in the Lower Hudson Valley that are supposed to guide people through the process have yet to announce key details of how people can get assistance.” The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee sent letters to 51 navigator grant recipients in 11 states in late August, asking the organizations how they will spend the money and attempting to learn how they will protect personal financial and health information during the enrollment process. (Navigators in New York state did not receive letters.) The law’s supporters frantically objected to these simple questions, leveling misguided claims of intimidation, but new revelations continue to make clear that this program, like most of the health care law, is not ready for prime-time on October 1.

“The troubling lack of readiness in New York and other states underscores the urgent need for thoughtful oversight. This $67 million program is already millions over budget, and there is no doubt the administration’s delays in awarding the grants is having a negative ripple effect,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “We will continue our pursuit of transparency, holding this administration accountable in the mad rush to implement its signature law. Americans seeking help from navigators deserve the peace of mind that their personal financial and medical information is protected and will be kept confidential.”

The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Thursday, September 19, with Gary Cohen, Director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, which is tasked with the implementation of the health law.

September 17, 2013

Some N.Y. health exchange ‘navigators’ yet to reveal help sites

With less than two weeks to go before New York’s health insurance exchange opens, many organizations in the Lower Hudson Valley that are supposed to guide people through the process have yet to announce key details of how people can get that assistance.

These “navigators” — people trained to help residents enroll in the insurance exchange — are considered key to participation in the Affordable Care Act. The law calls for them to be stationed at easily accessible places in the community so people can get one-on-one help on a walk-in or by-appointment basis.

But with the Oct. 1 opening of New York’s exchange looming, many groups that received taxpayer funds to provide navigator services say they are not yet ready to tell the public where that help can be found.

Unlike Medicaid, the N.Y. State of Health exchange — essentially an online shopping mall for insurance — is open to almost everyone. Residents will pay different prices based on their incomes. Navigators will help people determine whether they are eligible for a subsidy. Coverage starts Jan. 1.

Navigator grants were awarded to organizations in every county to ensure that all residents have access to help.

The Westchester Department of Health was awarded $348,023 in July to provide navigators. The department won’t announce where the navigators will be located “until we have contracts in place with all locations,” spokeswoman Caren Halbfinger said.

The N.Y. State of Health exchange has posted a map on its website showing organizations in each county that will have navigators, but advises residents to “check back soon for additional information.”

Marci Natale, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, which oversees the exchange, would say only that the information will not be available until Oct. 1. …

Read the complete story online here.

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