Delay in Navigator Certification Hindering Exchange Sign-Ups
Delays in training Covered California enrollment counselors and insurance agents are negatively affecting sales of health insurance policies, according to observers, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Less than 20% of individuals who have applied and begun training to be so-called navigators for the exchange have received certification.
State officials estimate that 80% of consumers will want help from navigators when signing up for coverage through the exchange. About 16,000 navigators are needed statewide to assist those consumers, according to the Times (Terhune/Brown, Los Angeles Times, 10/30).
In order to be approved as a navigator for Covered California, individuals must:
- Attend 20 hours of in-person educational courses;
- Take online training courses and tests; and
- Pass a background check.
In a notice published in June, exchange board members said that about 20,000 navigators would be available by July 1 of this year.
However, that estimate was scaled back in a webinar in August, which included plans to train about 16,000 navigators by the end of the year.
Exchange officials now estimate that 5,000 navigators will be certified by the end of December (Kim, "KPCC News," KPCC, 10/30).
According to exchange figures, Covered California has certified:
- 619 of the total 4,213 enrollment counselors who have applied; and
- 3,143 of the nearly 16,000 insurance agents who have applied.
Meanwhile, complaints from consumers about applying for exchange plans have been growing, according to experts.
Carmela Castellano-Garcia -- CEO of the California Primary Care Association -- said, "The process is simply taking too long," adding, "Our folks are frustrated with onerous delays at every step. We could be enrolling more people."
Reasons for Delay
Critics of the certification delays say they have been caused by:
- Delayed training sessions;
- Background checks taking longer than expected; and
- Computer log-in problems (Los Angeles Times, 10/30).
However, Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said the delays were caused by the exchange's decision to make the approval process stricter.
"In the last four months, we've actually raised the bar on what it takes to become a certified enrollment counselor," Lee said.
The newer requirements include:
- Fingerprinting; and
- Positive reviews of parent organizations to which applicants belong.
"Our number one priority is to make sure that when a consumer goes to a certified enrollment counselor, they know they're someone they can trust," Lee added ("KPCC News," KPCC, 10/30).
Covered California spokesperson Anne Gonzales said that navigators are vital to the exchange's success. She said that exchange officials are "moving as quickly as we can" to address the delay (Los Angeles Times, 10/30).
Lawmakers Urge Partnership With Online Brokers
In related news, some state lawmakers are calling on the exchange to partner with Web-based health insurance brokers to help boost enrollment, Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" reports.
In such a partnership, the brokers would collect a commission for each individual they enroll in coverage.
Assembly member Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), chair of the Assembly health committee, said, "We need people to get information to be able to sign up quickly."
However, online brokerages say that Covered California has been reluctant to partner with them.
Gary Lauer, CEO of eHealth, said the exchange has "rejected our request for them to allow us to be an option" (Pringle, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 10/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.