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HIX Navigator Grants Get $67M Boost

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, August 20, 2013

Certified application counselors, more commonly known as navigators, will provide hands on, in-person help to educate consumers—many from among the ranks of the uninsured—about the online health plan options offered through the marketplaces, the eligibility requirements, and the application process.

The grantees include community groups, a Catholic health system, universities, patient advocacy groups, food banks, and United Way and Planned Parenthood affiliates. The grant amounts range from $20,750 awarded to the Catholic Social Services-Archdiocese of Mobile (Alabama) to $5.9 million awarded to the United Way of Metropolitan Tarrant County (Texas).

In addition to funding concerns, the navigator program has come under fire from elected officials concerned about the training of navigators and their access to private consumer information, including Social Security numbers.

Last week attorneys general from 13 states sent an 8-page letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius outlining their concerns about a lack of uniform background or fingerprint checks.

In her prepared comments, Sebelius stated that the navigators will be required to "adhere to strict security and privacy standards," including how to safeguard a consumer's personal information. Navigators will subject to federal criminal penalties for violations of privacy or fraud statutes, as well as relevant state law penalties.

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