Q. Who serves as the ACA’s Navigators?
A. ACA’s Navigators are people who work for organizations that have existing relationships with health reform’s target populations. The Navigator role is specific to states that use Healthcare.gov, but state-run exchanges can establish their own parallel programs, and assisters in those states can also be called Navigators.
Each year in September, the federal government announces Navigator grant recipients for the states that have a federally-facilitated marketplace. For 2016, that includes 34 states (including partnership exchanges, but not including supported state-based exchanges), and the total grants awarded in September 2015 amounted to $67 million (link includes details on grant recipients for each state).
Each exchange has at least two types of entities serving as Navigator organizations, and at least one of the entities is a “community and consumer-focused nonprofit organization.”
Navigators are paid by the exchange; they cannot receive commissions from health insurance carriers. They can provide enrollment assistance both in person or over the phone, but they also cannot make plan recommendations because they are not licensed insurance agents.