Navigators are defined under the federal Affordable Care Act as persons who will assist consumers in choosing health care plans on the online Health Care Exchange, a list of available federal insurance options.
Under the federal standards, only 20 hours of online training are required for a person to use the title of "navigator" and educate persons on health care plans available to them through the federal exchange.
Earlier this year, Missouri's Republican-controlled legislature passed a provision requiring anyone who provides a service as a "navigator" to be licensed by the state.
The navigators work as health care educators. They are trained on the exchange and the policies available through it. It is their job to help people looking for health care on the exchange and counsel them in their options.
To remedy potential confusion about various plans available, the federal government has hired organizations across the country to aid in establishing navigators.
Missouri is home to two federally hired entities that will help in this process. Primaris Healthcare Business Solutions, a federal health services contractor, will lead a coalition of 11 Missouri health care organizations. The second is the Missouri Association of Area Agencies, which was hired for statewide outreach and educating Missourians on the exchange.
The two entities will receive nearly $1.8 million in federal compensation combined.
The Missouri Department of Insurance oversees the licensing of both individual navigators and navigator entities. These people must comply with the navigator policies set forth by the department.
"We intend to have every one of those licenses according to Missouri law," said Jeremy Milarsky, Navigator Project Manager for the Primaris Healthcare coalition.
Some Missourians, such as Larry Case, the Vice President of the Missouri Association of Insurance Agents, have raised concerns over these navigators.
"Some of these navigators may have been working at a convenience store yesterday and went and became certified to be a navigator, and now they're going to be advising people and counseling them on insurance in the exchange," Case said.
Case also raised concerns of the possibility of identity theft from applicant's personal information as a major concern of this program.
Navigator’s will be handling applicant’s most sensitive information due to the fact it is required to determine health care eligibility and options available to each individual.
The qualifications of navigators are being questioned because they may be federally certified after completing just 20 hours of online training.
The Department of Insurance has the following qualifications for issuing an individual navigator license:
Navigators are activated when the exchange goes live on Oct. 1.