With open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as Obamacare) having begun on October 1, many consumers are both worried and confused about what they are supposed to do now.
Purchasing health insurance under the most ideal of circumstances is difficult. The fact that the media has hyped up open enrollment to the point of causing fear and panic certainly does not help anyone feel comfortable about making decisions regarding their health care.
As I discussed in an earlier blog post, you do not need to panic just yet about making a decision regarding which health insurance policy is right for you. Although open enrollment is officially upon us, it does not mean you have to purchase a health policy immediately. In fact, if you have an existing policy you may have a much longer time frame with which to make a decision.
That being said, if you are uninsured and need to purchase a policy during the open enrollment period, it certainly makes sense that you’d be anxious to line up a new plan as soon as possible. When weighing your options, you will more than likely be tempted to use the services of folks being trained as so-called navigators within the insurance exchange.
What Is an Exchange Navigator?
A navigator is a person who is supposed to be qualified to lay out your options regarding your potential health insurance coverage. Many nonprofit community agencies will provide the services of a navigator, as will other entities that interact with the public on a regular basis. Some of these entities may include volunteer organizations or people who work with immigrants to help them assimilate into the country.
Although these navigators have received some training and may provide a valuable service to some sectors of their community, I feel strongly that you should know what kind of training they are going to have under their belt before helping you make a decision as important as which health care policy to choose.
What Are the Training Requirements?
Please keep in mind that the training for these new health exchange navigators may vary from state to state. To learn about the specific training that’s required, you can contact the Department of Insurance in your state.
However, as a general rule, the navigators are going to be completing the following training:
- A three-day training session that totals 24 hours of training.
- A written exam encompassing things such as the mandates governing the ACA, who is eligible to enroll, and which applicants may qualify for either Medicaid or a tax credit.
- Four hours per year of continuing education. There is no exam required after the continuing education hours are completed.
Beyond this, it does not appear that the navigators who will be assisting people with their health insurance on the state health exchanges will require any additional training.
This is good news for those people who are planning on becoming navigators! After all, not everyone really wants to spend large amounts of time taking classes and having to pass exams in order to assist people with health insurance. However, for people who are going to be purchasing health insurance either on or off the exchange, this is unsettling to say the least.
What Will a Navigator Tell Me?
Navigators on the health exchange are not allowed to give personal advice about specific policies. They are only allowed to present the specific plans that are available on the exchange, and are not allowed to discuss with you the benefits or drawbacks of any policy.
In theory, this allows you to make your own choice without feeling like someone is pressuring you either way. In reality, however, these navigators may very well be selling you short by not being able to discuss the plans and benefits available to you. Navigators will know next to nothing about your personal health issues, which could lead to you choosing a plan based on price alone rather than whether it is the best plan for your health.
Why Should I Choose a Personal Advisor?
In comparison, the Personal Advisors at HSA for America have all spent years in the health insurance industry, and have completed hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of education and training.
In order to become a licensed broker or agent, each member of my team is required to take and pass exams created by the Department of Insurance. These exams are extremely comprehensive, covering all aspects of the industry. There is also a separate part of the exam dealing specifically with the law and ethics; this ensures that the agents are well aware of what their legal responsibilities are, and are equipped to handle any potential legal or ethical issues that arise.
Personal Advisors are also able to talk with you about the specific benefits offered by each plan, and are not limited only to plans on the health exchange (plenty of worthwhile plans exist that are ACA-compliant but not on the exchange). We can talk with you in detail about all of your options based on your health, your budget, how much you are able to pay out-of-pocket, and many other factors.
Also, once you have signed up for a plan through HSA for America, you’ll have a direct and open-ended line to your Personal Advisor. We make it easy for you to understand everything there is to know about your policy, from the application to the issue of the policy and beyond.
So my question to you is this: when it comes to making an important health care decision like which insurance policy is the best fit for your budget and health needs, do you really want to deal with someone who has less than 30 hours of health insurance training? Or, would you rather talk with someone who has extensive experience in all aspects of the health insurance industry?
Do you want to be a passenger on the health care boat, subject to the whims of whomever is piloting it? Or would you rather be the captain, responsible for choosing your direction with the help of a trusted and experienced support crew?
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the plethora of changes that are being felt nationwide, health insurance is a more confusing and disconcerting venture than ever before. However, you do not have to feel like you are powerless. Contact one of our Personal Advisors at 866-749-2039 and let them help you make an informed decision about which health insurance policy is best for you.
Wiley Long is President of HSA for America, and a passionate advocate for consumer-based solutions that will improve price transparency and lower health insurance and medical costs for people purchasing individual and family health insurance plans.