Groups race to hire, train 'Obamacare' guides - New York News

Groups race to hire, train 'Obamacare' guides

Posted: Updated:

By CARLA K. JOHNSON

CHICAGO (AP) — With the program known as "Obamacare" only weeks away from its key launch date, hectic preparations are in motion in communities across the country to deal with one of its major practical challenges: hiring and training a small army of instant experts who can explain the intricacies of health insurance to people who've never had it.

More than 100 nonprofits and related organizations, which specialize in everything from running soup kitchens to organizing farm workers, have been recruited by the federal government to sign up "navigators" to help the 30 million uninsured people who can now gain coverage.

Many of the groups have little expertise in health insurance. And the timeline for training the workers is tight. According to the new health law, people can begin shopping among the new policies on Oct. 1. The enrollment period lasts six months. Coverage begins in January.

"I think there's a lot of concern about whether, with all these state requirements, they are going to be ready to go," said Katie Keith, a former research professor at Georgetown University, who has been tracking the heath care legislation. "You want people out there educating consumers."

Deploying the guides for the uninsured is one of the first hurdles for the new health system as it transitions from an abstract political debate in Washington to a real-life process in communities. It is one of the steps government officials are concerned about as critics warn that the Affordable Care Act could become a "train wreck."

The guides will be sent to community events with laptops to help people sign up for insurance online. They will work at food banks, shelters, churches and free clinics where the uninsured are likely to be.

The short time available for training raises questions about how prepared the workers will be to answer people's questions about the different policies and government subsidies available. Community groups received the course materials for the 20-hour training only days ago. Many have just begun to post the openings on job boards.

A small scream came from Tara McCollum Plese when she was asked whether her group, Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers, has hired any of the 45 workers authorized in its federal grant. "Ack! No," she said Thursday. Her group has posted a job description, she said, and is now flooded with inquiries for the positions, which pay about $15 an hour. She's since heard one worker has been hired.

Not one navigator has been hired yet under the $2 million grant obtained by the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. The Illinois Eye Institute, which will help with enrollment in the Chicago area, plans to train a dozen staffers for the task.

The work will be more difficult than what most other temporary employees, such as census workers, do. The navigators must listen to a family's real-world story, assess its income, and figure out eligibility for the Medicaid program, which provides health care for the poor, or for new tax credits, each with its own complicated rules.

If the system works as federal officials hope, more than half of the nation's uninsured, which amount to 15 percent of the population, will get coverage.

In Texas, with the highest percentage of uninsured residents, eight groups are receiving a total of $10.8 million and plan to train more than 150 paid workers and volunteers. Tim McKinney, CEO of United Way of Tarrant County, which got the largest grant, said many people without insurance are looking for information.

In Mississippi, workers will go into rural areas without Internet access to help people with the enrollment and policy-shopping process, which is done online.

"When Oct. 1 rolls around, we're going to be ready to rock 'n' roll," said the Rev. Michael O. Minor of Oak Hill Baptist Church in Hernando, Miss.

In 17 states, navigators have additional hoops to jump through because of new state laws affecting the federal health care law, such as required background checks for the workers.

Republican members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce have also called on some of the assisting groups to explain how consumers will be protected when they speak with a navigator. The Republicans' letter sets a Sept. 13 deadline for the groups to produce documents.

"This request threw us for a loop quite honestly," said Plese of the Arizona health center group. "We haven't even drawn down any funds from the grant."

Will there be enough time for the hiring and training?

"It has to be enough time," said Laura Goodhue, executive director of Florida CHAIN, a consumer health group involved in the training. "We have to do what we have to do."

___

AP writer Ann Sanner contributed to this report from Columbus, Ohio.

___

AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/CarlaKJohnson .

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Dad accidentally delivers baby into toilet

    Dad accidentally delivers baby into toilet

    A Connecticut baby has arrived with a splash, right into a toilet bowl. The baby's father, David Davis, tells WVIT-TV that he was forced to deliver the newborn in the bathroom of his West Haven home Friday morning after his wife, Lillie, went into labor. He says the baby slipped through his hands during the delivery, but luckily went into the water. He says she began crying and it was the best sound he'd ever heard.
    A Connecticut baby has arrived with a splash, right into a toilet bowl. The baby's father, David Davis, tells WVIT-TV that he was forced to deliver the newborn in the bathroom of his West Haven home Friday morning after his wife, Lillie, went into labor. He says the baby slipped through his hands during the delivery, but luckily went into the water. He says she began crying and it was the best sound he'd ever heard.
  • Mosquito-borne virus sickens 20 in NJ

    West Nile found in New Jersey mosquitoes

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 11:16 AM EDT2014-07-30 15:16:32 GMT
    Twenty New Jersey residents have tested positive for a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. The state Health Department says the residents who came down with chikungunya had returned to New Jersey from the Caribbean. Chikungunya causes a high fever and severe pain in the joints. It is rarely fatal.
    Twenty New Jersey residents have tested positive for a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. The state Health Department says the residents who came down with chikungunya had returned to New Jersey from the Caribbean. Chikungunya causes a high fever and severe pain in the joints. It is rarely fatal.
  • 5 annoying things about New York subway

    5 annoying things about New York subway

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 10:59 AM EDT2014-07-30 14:59:49 GMT
    Subway problems are annoying, but it’s just a part of living in New York City. Public transportation isn’t glamorous. It’s a pain. It’s a convenience that can cause an inconvenience. Here is a list of five annoying things about subways in New York City.
    Subway problems are annoying, but it’s just a part of living in New York City. Public transportation isn’t glamorous. It’s a pain. It’s a convenience that can cause an inconvenience. Here is a list of five annoying things about subways in New York City.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices