Iowa Navigator was officially launched ahead of this year's open enrollment, which started on
"We really think this is going to be a helpful component to the marketplace as people figure out what their health insurance options are," said
First Choice Services was launched in 1995 as a call-in service for social service health, and the company now manages help lines for gambling addiction, substance use and suicide prevention in
Smith said many people calling those service lines needed health insurance to seek the help they needed, which became a tipping point for the organization to launch its own navigator program, ACA Navigator.
First Choice Services has served as a navigator in
"It doesn't matter if it's out of state, this is something that fit into what we're already doing," Smith said.
He added, "the only difference is that there are different carriers in each of the states. So we had to learn about what plans the companies offer, study their provider networks, make sure medications are covered and things like that."
That includes First Choice Services, which was also awarded grants to employ navigators for
A navigator is trained to offer help to individuals, small businesses and their employees as they look for coverage options through the federal insurance marketplace. The services are free to consumers, and the advice offered must be unbiased.
In an effort to undermine the Obama-era health insurance expansion, the Trump administration has been reducing funding for navigator programs in recent years. Ahead of the 2018 open enrollment period, federal officials cut the funding from the
Three organizations that previously offered the service in
About 49,000 Iowans enrolled in a plan through the ACA marketplace during the 2019 open enrollment that took place between November and
"When no one applied to serve
As a result, Iowa Navigator -- as well as other states' programs -- are a tele-based service. Consumers can reach a navigator through the program by calling 1-877-474-NAVI.
The program has only been in place for two weeks, so Smith said navigators have not reached many Iowans yet.
More information on Iowa Navigator can be found on their website, acanavigator.com/ia/home.
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