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What health reform means for the people of Illinois

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Don't Restrict the Navigators!

The Affordable Care Act requires each Health Insurance Exchange to establish a Navigator program that will help people who are eligible to purchase coverage through the Exchange learn about their new coverage and enrollment options, including Medicaid, tax credits, and private insurance. In Illinois, the Navigator program will be paired with an In Person Assistor Program to help the 1.7 million uninsured residents in Illinois find coverage. The success of the ACA hinges on the ability of Navigators and In Person Assistors to reach eligible residents and provide culturally competent services. 

Two pieces of legislation currently being heard in the Illinois General Assembly - SB1194 & HB2608 – create barriers to this massive enrollment effort. The two pieces of legislation establish overly restrictive criteria for organizations and agencies that wish to serve as Navigators, making it more difficult for vulnerable populations to be connected with their new options for affordable health insurance coverage. For example, the bills require that Navigators be licensed by the state despite the fact that the Federal regulations specifically do not require licensing.

Additionally, SB1194/HB2608 are written to address a Navigator program operated by a state-based Health Insurance Marketplace. However, in 2014, Illinois will run its exchange in partnership with the federal government. Therefore, this legislation is unnecessary because HHS, not the Illinois Department of Insurance, retains ultimate authority over the Navigator grant process, including selecting Navigator grantees and awarding Navigator grants, and the approval of grantee activities and budgets.

Over a million Illinois residents will be eligible for new health insurance starting October 2013. For a successful marketplace, rather than putting into place restrictions that would deter and prevent community-based organizations from serving as Navigators, we should work to ensure that broad efforts are in place to connect these individuals with coverage. For that reason, we ask that you OPPOSE SB 1194 & HB 2608. See here for a fact sheet on the bills.

SB 1194 will likely be called for a vote in the Senate Insurance Committee on Wednesday, March 20th @ 5 pm. Don’t restrict the Navigators; please slip in opposition to SB 1194 and HB2608.

Kathy Chan, Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition
Nadeen Israel, Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights
Ramon Gardenhire, AIDS Foundation of Chicago
Stephanie Altman, Health & Disability Advocates


  1. Both bills are meant to protect Illinois residents from unscrupulous people. The personal information required to assist a person to sign up on the exchange is the same information that can be stolen and used in identity theft. Who do you think will better protect the Illinois people? HHS or Illinois? Navigators need to be properly trained, supervised, and overseen. I personally prefer people from Illinois to do this.

  2. Thanks, Robert, for your comment. We absolutely agree that there should be processes in place to protect consumers. We support training, certification, and registration of Navigators and brokers/agents by the Exchange. We just want to also ensure that community based organizations that will be best suited to connect newly eligibles -- especially those who are hard to reach -- also have the opportunity to play a role in these efforts. In addition, the Federal regulations require that exchanges adopt privacy and confidentiality policies for agents and brokers, for navigators, and for IPAs, so consumers will protected no matter whom they work with for getting coverage.

    Stephani Becker
    IHM Project Director

  3. Robert, I think it is naive to think these bills were introduced to protect people.
    On the surface, they smack of insurance industry insiders pulling political strings. If you think the state is interested in protecting peoples personal information, I invite you to visit the Dupage county FCRC in Villa Park and see what kind of information is shouted out. Better yet, take a visit to the Kane/Aurora FCRC and see that people are interviewed in the waiting room regarding their benefits...especially spanish speaking people.
    Just ask if they have any 'work experience' people working at their office...unpaid TANF recipients busting 20-30 hours a week doing clerical work that the local office is 'too busy' to take care of. They work with social security numbers all day long; not state employees, not trained, no background checks. For a few hundred dollars a month in TANF dollars.

    If SNAP is any guide, the federal government will be much more effective in guidance and protection than the state, so to answer your question; HHS, not Illinois.

    Josh Turner
    LINK Solutions