Ohio Groups Readying Navigators to Assist with Health Insurance Marketplace Applications

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The online application took me about an hour to fill out until I was asked for my signature told I was almost finished. While a couple glitches prolonged the process, most of the time was dedicated to answering the application's many questions.

Like my home address, email, the size of my family. The application gave also me the option of providing my race and Social Security number. When I said I wanted help knowing if I qualified for tax credits or other subsidies, it asked me about my income.

You can see the estimated premium cost for insurance plans in your county before you even start filling out an application. But you won’t see what the plans cover and what they don’t until you complete it.

Cathy Levine is the head of the Universal Healthcare Action Network of Ohio and co-chair of Ohio Consumers for Health Coverage, two groups that advocate for expanding health coverage. She says she wishes things were different.

“I would prefer that somebody would be able to see what the plans look like, including their provider networks and formularies, by just setting up an account online, which requires name and minimal info,” Levine says.

Groups in Ohio received more than $2 million to train and pay people as healthcare navigators to help applicants, says Ohio Association of Foodbanks Executive Director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt.

The association is one of the major participants. Hamler-Fugitt says the state needs more navigators than federal subsidies will support.

“Right now we estimate there are 1.5 million Ohioans who are either uninsured or underinsured who are going to need assistance," Hamler-Fugitt says. "Some will be able to navigate the marketplace on their own.”

But others won’t, she says. That’s why service organizations are also training potentially hundreds of people who aren’t navigators to assist in the process.

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