By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
have heard that the rollout of the new federal health care online marketplace
has not been without glitches. What certified Affordable Care Act navigator
Whitney Griggs advises is: Remain calm.
definitely run into issues with it,” she said. “I find that patience is the
had noticed Ms. Griggs was scheduled to be available at the Dade County Library
on Thursday to help Dade residents apply for insurance under ACA, or so-called
Obamacare, and had decided to stop by to put a local face to the national
initiative. The Sentinel found that face to be young, blond and, yes,
her laptop at a library table, Ms. Grigg, 26, said that though she had high
hopes for the healthcare.gov website – “It’s getting better ever day, and it’s
faster” – for the time being she was working with paper applications only: The
site was down – again.
prime busy times when there are a lot of people trying to get in,” she said. “I
tell people if they can’t get in during the day to go back and try in the
doesn’t always work, either, she said. “I know that there have also been times
that they’ve taken it offline to do work,” said Ms. Griggs. “I’ve been told
that Nov. 30 is the deadline that’s its going to be up and running and that’s
what I’m waiting on, and we shall see.”
This was only
her third enrollment event, said Ms. Griggs, but so far she had had to manage
with the paper applications only.
“We’ve had a
lot of success with the paper applications,” she said. “It’s a very simple
application. All you need is your Social Security number and an estimate of
what your 2014 income is going to be if you’re applying for subsidies. Then you
just stick it in the mail and they mail you back your eligibility results.”
To wit, what
federal subsidies the applicant is eligible for to help pay for which health
insurance plan offered by private insurers in the applicant’s home state.
That’s what the marketplace was set up to do online. But with the paper form,
there is a longish turnaround time between mailing the application to the
processing center in London, Ky., and receiving the eligibility letter.
asked the consumers that I’ve helped to do is to give me a call when they get
their eligibility letter back, so then we can kind of sit down and discuss what
that means to them and then we can start talking about what kind of health plan
they want to purchase,” said Ms. Griggs.
So far, though,
that hasn’t happened, she said, and she’s been devoting some of the downtime to
telling people about the Affordable Care initiative. “There’s a lot of people
that are interested in it and there’s a lot of people that just don’t know what
it is,” she said. “So that’s what I’ve found, that a lot of things I’m doing
are more informational, answering questions, because there’s a lot of
misinformation about it out there.”
Ms. Griggs said
she knows that opponents of ACA have mounted hostility toward navigators but
that she has encountered none personally, and she didn’t mind furnishing a
synopsis of her training:
employment is as a resource specialist for the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies
Coalition of Georgia, said Ms. Griggs, responsible to the coalition for 10
counties in the northwest of the state including Dade.
To become a
federally-certified, state-licensed navigator, Ms. Griggs completed a series of
online training modules and subsequent tests administered by the federal
government; then she also attended classroom training and underwent a background
check required by Georgia. She completed those requirements in
a consent form okaying Ms. Griggs to work with them, but she is not allowed to
fill out the paper application form for them or key their personal responses
into the online system (assuming it’s operational). They must do that
themselves, though she is allowed to answer questions and walk them through the
online process if they are unfamiliar with computers.
She answered a
question the Sentinel relayed to her from a reader: Though Georgia has refused
to expand Medicaid to include residents with income too low to qualify for
health insurance subsidies, should such residents fill out the application
anyway? And will they be allowed to buy such coverage as they can pay for
without the subsidies from the marketplace?
Yes, said Ms.
Griggs, in both cases. If an applicant wants the insurance it is certainly for
sale through the marketplace whether the government helps subsidize it or not;
but by filing the application showing the insurance is unaffordable at his or
her income level, the applicant is also filing for exemption from any fines for
not participating in the insurance initiative.
Georgia and Alabama are all states that opted, as a Supreme Court Decision
allowed them to do, out of expanding Medicare, leaving many of their poorest
residents in the same place they were before ACA became law – uninsured and
ill-equipped to pay for medical care independently.
“I do see a lot
of people that fall into that hole, so what we do then with them is refer them
to local community resources, the federally qualified health centers and free
clinics in their area, resources that they might not be aware of,” said Ms.
the Sentinel in conclusion, how did Ms. Griggs think things were going for
Obamacare? “It’s too soon right now for me to really tell,” she said. “I have
had success stories, of people that haven’t been able to buy health insurance
for years and years and years … and now they’re going to able to go see a
And again, she
counsels patience. “I haven’t, me personally, sat down with anyone and helped
them pick a plan and helped them pay their first premium, which is the final
step in getting health care,” she said. “But I have worked with people who,
when they are able to get all the way through the system, health insurance is
going to be available for them.”
If readers have
questions for Ms. Griggs, they can reach her (770) 451-0020, extension 316, or
email her at email@example.com.
federally certified navigator, Brittany Dee, works with patients at Dade’s
Primary Health Care Center, and a University of Georgia navigator covers the
same northwestern counties as Ms. Griggs.