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HealthBeat

Meet a navigator: One of the guides through Obamacare

Mariann White, a public affairs organizer at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, poses for a portrait at the organization's Concord office on Monday afternoon, September 30, 2013. White completed the 20 hours of training required to be a navigator for patients looking for options within the Affordable Care Act. 

(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Mariann White, a public affairs organizer at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, poses for a portrait at the organization's Concord office on Monday afternoon, September 30, 2013. White completed the 20 hours of training required to be a navigator for patients looking for options within the Affordable Care Act. (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

This morning, Mariann White planned to get up early and pick up her big white binder for just one more cram session.

She’d have just a few more hours until the start of her new job. It’s kind of the same as her old job, though.

White, a public affairs organizer with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, is one of nine people, called navigators, trained to help New Hampshire residents work their way through the new health insurance marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act.

“I got into public health because I want to help people,” White said yesterday at the Planned Parenthood office in Concord, where she spent the afternoon clicking through her online training and flipping through the accompanying binder.

“I think the Affordable Care Act is the greatest opportunity, if not in my life, than in lifetimes to come. I want to be part of making sure people in our state have access to affordable, quality health care.”

The Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, is President Obama’s attempt to extend health care coverage to all Americans, in large part through the marketplaces.

The marketplaces, also called exchanges, are expected to open today even if federal lawmakers couldn’t reach a deal to continue funding the government before their midnight deadline.

The marketplaces are basically websites where people can purchase insurance from a set of qualifying plans. The federal government offers tax credits and other financial help to ensure that low-income people can afford the coverage sold there.

Whether someone is eligible for a tax credit or not depends on a number of factors, and a handful of forms.

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Bi-State Primary Care Association received federal grants to help people understand and fill out those forms.

Planned Parenthood trained White, Senior Operations Manager Holly Schiavoni and staff members at the organization’s health centers in Claremont, Derry, Exeter, Keene, Manchester and West Lebanon, for a total of nine existing staff who are able to be navigators, said Senior Policy Advisor Jennifer Frizzell.

The organization also hired two additional navigators and is still looking for one more, Frizzell said.

None of the navigators here or across the country have seen the actual forms yet, which has raised some alarms in other states. Navigators in Ohio and Arizona told The Wall Street Journal they have not hired nearly as many staff as they originally hoped, and those who are on board haven’t been able to access digital training to test run the enrollment process.

“This is very much coming together in real-time,” Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of an Ohio navigator organization told the Journal.

White said she isn’t worried.

“It might be touch-and-go in the beginning, but we were given a lot of really great training documents,” and they will all be available for the navigators to consult once the marketplaces open, she said.

Navigators can’t recommend specific plans. Neither can people called in-person assisters, who will be paid with a separate federal grant. Organizations receiving that grant will be announced this morning at a rally in Manchester.

For specific advice on which plan to buy, people should visit a professional insurance agent or broker.

For the next few weeks, the organization is focused on building “the on-ramp to enrollment,” Frizzell said.

That means holding events such as a press conference this morning in Manchester, and delivering materials to libraries and other community centers where people can find out how to start.

The navigators at Planned Parenthood centers won’t be helping people who just drop in; people will need to schedule a 30-minute appointment in advance. The health centers and other community locations will have big blue boxes with cards that people can fill out to request an appointment.

Though the marketplace opens today, people have until Dec. 15 to purchase insurance in order to be covered starting Jan. 1. The marketplace will remain open until March 31 during this first enrollment period; next fall, enrollment will be from Oct. 1 to Dec. 7.

“We don’t expect to enroll everyone in the first few weeks. I expect that within a few weeks out from the launch, we’ll have a full appointment schedule,” Frizzell said.

The anticipation and focus on the marketplace’s launch today “has felt like a lot of ‘hurry up and wait,’ ” White said. “But we have a saying around here: ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint.’ We’ve been given a great opportunity and I’m not nervous.”

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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Legacy Comments10

"Obama’s old friends in the ACORN crime syndicate have decided to get a piece of the big-money Obamacare action. United Labor Unions (ULU) Local 100 in New Orleans, which is run by ACORN founder Wade Rathke, announced on its Facebook page that it’s gearing up “to do mass enrollment and help navigate people into the marketplaces in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas under the Affordable Care Act!” Be afraid. Wherever Rathke goes, lawlessness follows. "

The navigators are just folks who will help you. They were hired with no background checks. No fingerprinting. No HS diploma required. Previous convictions like identity theft is okay. They will have access to the Federal Data Hub which includes info from the IRS, SSI, HHS and Homeland Security Depts. Their training required 20 to 30 hours on an online program that explains the ACA. That training had to be shortened because of the rush to get the navigators hired by Oct 1st. Do you want to give all your info to these folks?

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-04-05/pdf/2013-07951.pdf

Wan't to see what Crony Capitalism is all about? White, a public affairs organizer with Planned Parenthood Most of these so called "navigators" jobs around the country are being giving to Obama's political friends; SEIU, Planned Parenthood, ACORN and as Sail brilliantly pointed out they are also there to register voters. So lets get this straight while Obama is president the full weight of the federal government attacked Obama's enemies and distributed personal information of Obama's enemies to Obama's allies and now what do we have? We have Obama's allies getting access to everybody's personal information at their finger tips. Chances of abuse are quite high, chances of Obama doing anything about it very low. This is what Obama will do he will have them investigate themselves say there was nothing wrong and let the liberal media run interference for him because that is what the liberal media does allows corruption as long as there is a liberal in the White house.

Sheesh. I personally know Mariann, and her integrity is unimpeachable. She cares about delivering quality health care to a population in need. The real outrage in this country shouldn't be Obamacare. It is that we consider it okay people are without health care. No one is working lists of enemies. This isn't some sort of fantastical methodology to exterminate the right. We aren't focused on the right's views, we are focused on helping people.

There are no list of enemies nelie? So the Tea Party was not deemed an enemy? Conservative women are not the enemy? The Catholic Church is not the enemy? Folks who want a balanced budget are not the enemy? Folks who want entitlement programs are not the enemy? Voters who want clean elections without fraud are not the enemy? Responsible gun owners are not the enemy? Yeah, the left have no enemies. The biggest one is Capitalism.

Why do you want to derail a discussion about a super lady who's taking the time to educate herself so that she can assist people in finding affordable health insurance. And how the heck can a person guiding someone through a computer signup for insurance have a clue if someone is a TPer? Or conservative? Wow... just wow... enemy... wow...

The jobs are given to those who applied. If you wanted the job you should have applied!

did the readers know that the navigators are also instructed to register you to VOTE - guess which party the navigators will be pushing the low information people to choose

I hate to tell you this, but people who aren't registered to vote already aren't ideologues who vote consistently by party. And perhaps you don't know any independents, but this group votes for who they believe will do the best job running things. And one more thing - every citizen has the right to vote, its guaranteed in the Constitution, so having everyone registering themselves is a brilliant idea - especially as they will have all their documents when they sign themselves up for their insurance.

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