NEWS: Raleigh News and Observer: Navigators turn to paper applications to enroll N.C. residents for subsidized insurance

November 6, 2013

President is Dallas-Bound to “Thank” Navigators Who Have Also Been Stymied By Botched HealthCare.gov

Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Murphy: “It’s like navigating a dead end. There’s nowhere to go, either online or with the paper application.”

This afternoon President Obama boarded Air Force One, bound for Dallas, Texas, in an attempt to escape the fallout of his oft repeated broken promise that Americans can keep their health plan if they like it “no matter what.” According to The Hill, the president will “thank neighborhood canvassers and navigators helping residents to enroll in Obamacare.” But the navigators that the president is traveling over 1,300 miles to “thank” are unlikely to be having much success in their enrollment efforts: the broken HealthCare.gov online enrollment portal is a roadblock to pretty much anyone trying to navigate the process. Even navigators resorting to paper applications are still running into the website roadblocks.

The Raleigh, North Carolina, News and Observer this week highlighted navigators’ use of paper applications, reporting, “Navigators say they can walk clients through the application process all the way to the point of enrolling – and have done so in a number of instances – but the final step requires getting through on the government website or calling the federal assistance toll-free number.” Unfortunately, all roads lead through the website portal which has caused roadblocks, delays, and uncertainty.

At a recent hearing on PPACA Implementation Failures: Didn’t Know or Didn’t Disclose, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA) was told by the main contractor responsible for the paper applications, Serco, that the company ultimately does process applications “through the consumer portal.” 

“The administration may be encouraging the public to turn to navigators and paper applications, but there is no escaping the broken website or this broken law,” said Murphy. “On top of the privacy and security concerns surrounding the program, navigators are saddled with the same website problems as anyone else attempting to access HealthCare.gov. It’s like navigating a dead end. There’s nowhere to go, either online or with the paper application.” 

The committee has been conducting oversight of the navigator program to ensure consumers are protected. The administration granted $67 million to 105 organizations nationwide to help sell and explain the health law to the American people, but the program was millions of dollars over budget and months behind schedule, limiting training time and raising concerns of fraud and identity theft. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services did not issue guidance for Navigators until September 20.

Adding to the concerns surrounding Navigator safeguards and training, HHS Secretary Sebelius testified today that criminal background checks are not required and it is “possible” for felons to become navigators. The Illinois Insurance Department also recently warned residents to be aware of navigator scams and door-to-door activity.

November 4, 2013

Navigators turn to paper applications to enroll N.C. residents for subsidized insurance

Figuring out health insurance is never a simple matter, but it’s even more convoluted when online networks choke under pressure. That’s a lesson Cindy Murray learned last week during her visit to the Alliance Medical Ministry in Raleigh for a personal tutorial on coverage under the new federal health law. …

Armed with a slew of questions, the part-time hair stylist sat down with Keith Ward, a trained insurance “navigator,” to review her health insurance options.

After a two-hour consultation with Ward, she left the Raleigh clinic carrying paper forms to be filled out manually at home.

Unable to log in to the buggy federal enrollment website, healthcare.gov, Ward and other navigators have devised a creative way to bypass digital technology: paper, pen and envelope.

The downside: It could take weeks for Murray’s federal subsidy amount confirmation to come back by snail mail. At that point she will finally be able to schedule a follow-up meeting with a navigator to begin comparing insurance plans.

“I actually thought I’d know when I walked out of here,” Murray said afterward of her insurance subsidy. “I think I lost a lot of time.” …

Navigators say they can walk clients through the application process all the way to the point of enrolling – and have done so in a number of instances – but the final step requires getting through on the government website or calling the federal assistance toll-free number. …

The application process can be laborious and time-consuming without the federal website, which was designed as a one-stop resource. Details about insurance policies and subsidy amounts have to be gleaned from separate sources, and at this time can’t be reconciled online with a seamless, automated function.

“The stepped approach to the process is a challenge, with the website not taking you through A to Z in one sitting reliably,” said Jennifer Simmons, the navigator project coordinator for Legal Aid of North Carolina, which has deployed nearly 60 navigators throughout the state. …

Read the complete story online here.
 

November 6, 2013

Sebelius: ‘Possible’ for felon to become an Obamacare navigator

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a congressional panel on Wednesday that it was “possible” for an Obamacare navigator to have been convicted of a felony.

Speaking at Senate Finance Committee hearing, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) asked if federal background checks were a prerequisite for the hiring of the individuals tasked with walking people through Obamacare enrollment.

“The president is in Dallas, Texas today touting the navigator program, which as you know are people who are hired to navigate the [Affordable Care Act], but I would just like to ask you this question,” Cornyn said to Sebelius. “Isn’t it true that there is no federal requirement for a navigator to undergo a criminal background check, even though they will receive sensitive personal information for people they help sign up for the Affordable Care Act?”

“That is true,” Sebelius responded. “States can add an additional background check and other features, but that is not part of the federal requirement.” …

Read the complete story online here.

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