This was supposed to be Obamacare’s shining moment.
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Obamacare created insurance “navigators” to help people across the country sign up for coverage on the Health Insurance Marketplace.
The site’s technical failures mean that the 66 navigators now licensed in Georgia are resorting to paper or phone applications or simply asking people to wait until the site works.
Consumers are calling, emailing and knocking on doors looking for help signing up for the new health plans, said Cathy Bowden of the Georgia Association for Primary Health Care, which is coordinating the work of navigators at health centers across the state.
The clinics already provide care to uninsured Georgians who are a focus on the health care law. Trying to help them sign up “is an ongoing, non-stop process, all day,” Bowden said.
Navigators say they are focused on explaining the law to consumers until the site is up and running.
Seedco, a nonprofit that won a federal grant to help a group of Georgia organizations deploy navigators, is focused on education instead of sign-ups. Seedco and its partners have sent navigators to libraries, churches, fund-raising walks for cancer and AIDS and town hall meetings to explain what Obamacare could mean for individuals.
Many consumers wouldn’t be quite ready to sign up for coverage on the marketplace, even if the website worked perfectly, said Ben Thomases of Seedco. They need time, he said, to just learn about how the law works and to consider their options.
Navigators hired by the University of Georgia, which also received a federal grant, have reached roughly 5,000 consumers through outreach and education events in 56 counties. They’ve also helped 1,000 people with the marketplace through workshops, town halls, one-on-one consultations and presentations at their county extension offices, among other places.
“There is a tremendous amount of misinformation, so navigators are doing a lot of education,” said Deborah Murray, the university’s associate dean for extension and outreach.
Looking for help? Here’s how to reach a navigator:
Community Health Centers
All centers have navigators. Here’s a link to find one near you.
University of Georgia Health Navigators
WSB/AJC joint report
wsbtv.com, wsbradio.com, myajc.com and ajc.com will offer a live stream of a special webcast Monday night — “Obamacare in Georgia,” produced by WSB and featuring Clark Howard and AJC reporters Carrie Teegardin and Misty Williams. The webcast will be on all four sites simultaneously from 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Afterward, Teegardin and Williams will host a live question-and-answer session on the web. The show will be webcast again at 1 p.m. the next day, with another live Q&A session following.