This guest post was written by Bryce Marable of Health & Disability Advocates.
Navigators are key to health care outreach and enrollment across the country, but in Cook County the number of working Navigators is on the decline as grant funding slows. This is not only bad for individual Navigators unable to find work, but compromises the success of future enrollment cycles. In-person assisters of all stripes — including Navigators, Certified Application Counselors, agents, and brokers — play a crucial role in helping people apply for coverage. An Enroll America study found that people who got in-person help were nearly 60 percent likelier to enroll. To help keep assisters in the community, through the Health Insurance Workforce Pipeline Initiative, Health & Disability Advocates and the Chicago Cook County Workforce Partnership are connecting unemployed Navigators with jobs in the health insurance field — specifically as brokers.
Health & Disability Advocates is leveraging its connections in the health insurance community to bring employees and employers to the table. Meanwhile the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership contributes Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA) dollars that pay for job-readiness training, workshops, and on-the-job training that new hires may need once they start their jobs as brokers. Since its formation in early May 2015, the Health Insurance Workforce Pipeline Initiative has hosted Rapid Response Workshops that describe the resources available for unemployed or soon-to-be unemployed enrollment assisters. HDA and CCWP also organized an exclusive job fair where Navigators could meet and interview with employers looking to hire.
Former Navigators are already transitioning into new jobs thanks to this initiative. A group of eight new hires who had previously collaborated as enrollment assisters to connect 51,000 people with Medicaid and marketplace coverage will now be working together as brokers, drawing on their experiences as Navigators. According to Tearalla, a new hire, “As a broker, my Navigator skills are transferable and aligned with my current responsibilities. I will continue to provide outreach, education, and enrollment assistance to newly enrolled consumers and consumers seeking to re-enroll in the Marketplace.”
These transitioning Navigators will be doing outreach and drawing on their strong connections — including with Navigators — in the communities where they worked for the first two enrollment cycles where they already have strong connections. Said Tearalla, “Networking with existing community stakeholders is ongoing.”
Everyone wins — employers and Navigators alike — when these Navigators transition into new roles as brokers. According to one hiring manager, they were able to hire more former Navigators because money spent for training was covered by WIOA dollars. The hiring manager was also excited that the new hires have great working relationships with groups and community leaders.
New hires are eager to continue enrollment work. They are already reaching out to previous community contacts to spread the word about their new role and the ongoing opportunity to get health insurance. Said one former enrollment assister, Olivia, “I’m excited about the opportunity to continue to enroll folks in the ACA.” It’s a wonderful opportunity for the overall enrollment push in Illinois, too. Having seasoned pros with strong community connections on the front lines of Affordable Care Act outreach like Olivia and Tearalla can help set up a strong foundation for the upcoming enrollment cycle and get even more people connected to health insurance.
This post was also published by Illinois Health Matters.