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Obamacare Navigators, 'Assisters' Helped Fewer Than Two People Per Day

Nine in ten heard from clients again with post-enrollment problems.

8:33 AM, Jul 17, 2014 • By WHITNEY BLAKE
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- The marketplace call centers didn’t get rave reviews. Only 69 percent of assister programs categorized both the federal and state centers as “very or somewhat helpful,” contrasted with a 92 percent rating for brokers and agents and a 90 percent rating for state insurance departments. Kaiser also discovered incompetence: “some complain that call center representatives didn’t always provide accurate or consistent information.” A survey of consumers by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation revealed similar sentiments last month.

The Kaiser study, including both federal and state exchanges, estimated that state exchanges helped twice as many people per 1,000 uninsured. Lead Kaiser author Karen Pollitz attributed this to “the barrage of bad noise against the ACA” in federal exchange states.

For these 34 states that opted not to set up their own exchanges, HHS doled out $67 million last year to 105 navigator groups, including Planned Parenthood, United Way, the National Urban League, and an ACORN offshoot. The now infamous navigators came under scrutiny for reports of corruption, fraud, lax screening procedures of hires, and identity theft, despite President Obama’s lavish praise last month. This year, $60 million will be up for grabs by these navigators.

Various government agencies directed about $413 million to all assister programs last year, according to Kaiser. Navigators comprised just two percent of these programs -- the bulk was made up of certified application counselors (45 percent), federally qualified health centers (26 percent), and in person assisters (26 percent). In the Kaiser study, 76 percent of the assister programs said they were "very likely" to work in the same capacity for this year’s fall enrollment.

There’s certainly room for improvement this time around.

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