Training begins Monday for the 180 people who have signed up to become “navigators” who will help people through the process of getting health care.
The federal government will pay their salaries once the Silver State Health Exchange goes live Oct. 1, but they will actually be employed by eight nonprofit agencies selected to help with the enrollment process.
Exchange director John Hager said the Department of Public Safety is conducting background checks on the applicants as they are being trained. Sixteen people have gone through the process, taken their tests and become certified.
The goal is to have 140 navigators, he said.
In addition, 949 insurance brokers and agents have signed up to insure people through the exchange. With the federal subsidies offered through the Affordable Care Act to help people pay for insurance, Hager said, the exchange is popular with existing insurance agents.
“This is a market they’ve been trying to penetrate for years,” he said. “They have a much better chance now with the subsidies.”
For those in Southern Nevada, Hager said, the four-hour training program is scheduled Sept. 23 in Henderson. There will be ongoing training programs for other individuals, brokers and agents who decide to sell insurance products through the exchange later.
Hager said the advantage of buying insurance through the exchange instead of from an agent is that only through the exchange can people qualify for the tax credit that will help subsidize their monthly premiums. That credit will reduce what might be a $200 monthly premium to as little as $44 depending on the individual’s age and income. Anyone making less than $45,960 a year will be eligible for some amount of subsidy.
The navigators are intended to be non-biased, given that they don’t get commissions and are paid with federal dollars, he said.
“Brokers could tend to steer people toward a plan that offers them a higher commission,” Hager said. “But for the most part, brokers we’ve been meeting with appear to be upstanding people, so I’m not really concerned about that.”
He said, however, they will be monitoring the people selling insurance products through the exchange, dubbed Nevada Health Link.
They also are training certified application counselors who will help people find the insurance policy that suits their needs. He said hospitals are interested in hiring application counselors to help the uninsured patients they have to serve get coverage so that, if they come back in the future, the hospital can get paid.
Hager said the exchange also is extending its reach out of state by holding a train-the-trainer program Thursday. That program will teach eight people to provide training in places such as California, Illinois, Georgia, Texas and other states to the brokers and agents who work for the four companies that are offering insurance plans on the exchange.
Hager said Nevada has an estimated 118,000 uninsured residents who, under so-called Obamacare, must buy health care coverage or get it through their employer next year. He said his office expects some 3,000 small businesses will also be able to use the exchange to get coverage for their employees.