Georgia will receive millions of federal dollars for a new workforce of health insurance “navigators,” or counselors who will help uninsured people find coverage on the state’s new exchange, the federal government announced Thursday.
But the $3.8 million won’t go far, and just 46 days remain before the opening of the exchange, created by the Affordable Care Act. During those six weeks, the local nonprofits and other groups that won the grants on Thursday will have to hire the navigators and put them through 35 hours of training. Navigators must also undergo fingerprinting, a background check and state licensing exam all by Oct. 1 when the exchange opens for business.
The grants will pay for far fewer navigators than are needed, consumer advocates say, to help the 900,000 Georgians expected to shop on the exchange. Of the two groups receiving grants, one estimated that it could hire 20 navigators; the other was not yet sure. The consumer advocates also note that state leaders, who strongly oppose the Affordable Care Act, have done little to help out.
“It’s a huge gap that the state isn’t doing anything in terms of leadership and resources,” said Cindy Zeldin, executive director of advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future.