Groups handling healthcare marketplace sign-ups boost safeguards
08/23/2013 - The Charleston Daily Mail. By Zack Harold.
CHARLESTON - Both of the groups charged with hiring "navigators" for West Virginia's health care marketplace will require employees to get background checks and fingerprints before they can begin signing up residents for health insurance.
Pat Haberbosch, executive director of West Virginia Parent Training and Information, said the navigators, who would guide residents through the Affordable Care Act sign-up process, would receive "pretty intense" training on privacy rules through the online training they will receive through the federal government.
Haberbosch said fingerprints and background checks are already required for the group's existing employees, and requiring them for navigators is just another layer of protection.
"There's a lot of talk out there," Haberbosch said. "We want as many safeguards as we can put in place."
Advanced Patient Advocacy, a Richmond, Va.-based company that also will hire navigators in West Virginia, said it will require background checks as well.
Chief marketing officer Rodney Napier said the company also might require its navigators to undergo additional training to "make sure they're up to our standards."
Last week, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and his colleagues from 12 other states sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, saying navigators will not have adequate training to protect individuals' personal information.
The letter says the HHS rules for protecting data "lack clarity" and do not provide for screening or background checks for navigators or prescribe ways to keep scammers from posing as navigators to defraud consumers.
Speaking to the Daily Mail on Thursday, Morrisey said the groups' background check and fingerprint requirements are a step in the right direction but aren't enough to protect consumers.
He said no matter what the organization does, the federal rules are still vague.
"We'd be very pleased if the organizations that are navigators for our state go beyond the requirements of the law," he said. "It's certainly very helpful. I think it's terrific."
But, Morrisey said, "the guidance they've received from the federal government is inadequate."
Federal law does not spell out how authentic navigators will identify themselves or what penalties the navigators will face if they violate consumers' privacy, he said.
Morrisey said it is also troubling the group will have only a few weeks to train its navigators before the marketplace opens on Oct. 1. Haberbosch said the online training for navigators is not currently available but should go live early next week.
"I haven't seen it yet," she said.
West Virginia Parent Training and Information will begin hiring navigators next week.
Haberbosch said she has not yet received a grant from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, however, even though the agency announced last week WVPTI would receive $276,617 to pay its navigators.
The group plans to hire six navigators, with some working full-time and others part-time. Less populous regions will not need full-time navigators, Haberbosch said, while covering some areas of the state like Charleston and Huntington would be too much work for part-time employees.
Haberbosch said she met with representatives from West Virginia University's Center for Excellence in Disabilities on Thursday to hash out a job description for the workers. They will finalize that description on Monday.
Napier said Advanced Patient Advocacy is currently looking for navigators but is waiting until a meeting with federal CMS officials on Friday to finalize details.
Advanced Patient Advocacy received $276,617 to hire navigators in West Virginia but also will hire navigators in Florida, Kansas and Virginia.
Napier said details aren't final yet, but his organization likely could base its navigators in hospitals, helping uninsured patients sign up for coverage.
Haberbosch said her group would focus on going to communities and signing people up for the health insurance marketplace. Most of her navigators would be housed at Department of Health and Human Resources offices around the state but would make regular appearances in local communities, she said.
"To actually serve our constituents, we need to go out and find them. They just don't typically get up and get dressed and say, 'We're going to the Holiday Inn for a meeting.' You're going to find us at blackberry festivals," she said.
"You're going to see us at community events where we hand out information. That's where we find people."
For information on becoming a health insurance navigator, contact West Virginia Parent Training and Information at 304-624-1436.