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Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013

Understanding Obamacare: Navigators Will Help You Enroll

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Question: Can I speak to someone about signing up for Obamacare? Or must I sign up through the website?

Answer: Thanks to Obamacare, tens of millions of Americans—including about 400,000 in Wisconsin—will have access to health care coverage for the first time. Many people will be using healthcare.gov on their own, but others will need guidance. You can still go through agents, brokers or insurance companies to purchase insurance, but the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, provides for Navigators and Certified Application Counselors (CACs) to help you make your decision and sign up for a plan. 

Navigators are housed in organizations that received federal grants to help you understand Obamacare. Navigators educate the community about the law and help people understand the plans. Unlike insurance agents, Navigators cannot tell you which plan to pick, and they do not receive any compensation from insurers. 

CACs are volunteers or employees of organizations who are licensed to help guide you through the enrollment process. Hospitals, health centers, free clinics and more will have people available to help you enroll in the marketplace. Many CACs already enroll people into programs like BadgerCare and now can help more of the uninsured they see every day. CACs are not compensated by insurance companies or the federal government, and like Navigators they cannot tell you which plan to choose. 

And Wisconsin needs this help. The open enrollment period ends March 31, 2014, and there is still plenty of work to do to help educate and enroll the uninsured and underinsured in Wisconsin. 

In Milwaukee County, Navigators are located at the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin (414-933-0064) and at SeniorLAW (ages 60-64, 414-274-3455). Many CACs are located throughout the Milwaukee area, including the Department of Health Services, at 1220 W. Vliet St. and by phone at 888-947-6583. You can find a location near you at localhelp.healthcare.gov or by calling IMPACT 211 (414-773-0211). For healthcare.gov’s 24/7 call center, contact 800-318-2596.

—Kevin Kane, lead organizer, Citizen Action of Wisconsin

The Shepherd Express and Citizen Action of Wisconsin will answer questions about the Affordable Care Act during its implementation. Got a question? Email editor@shepex.com.