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Filling in Gaps in Consumer Assistance: How Exchanges Can Use Assisters

By Cheryl Fish-Parcham,


Consumers will need help enrolling in the new health coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act. Navigators and in-person assisters will play a vital role helping consumers learn about and sign up for health insurance.

Because states need to use their health insurance marketplace’s operating budget to pay for navigators, they may not have enough funding to reach all consumers during the first year of enrollment. In-person assisters can help fill that gap because states can get federal grants to pay for in-person assisters.

Depending on whether the state partners with the federal government to run its marketplace, using in-person assisters in addition to navigators is either an option or a requirement. States that run their own marketplace can choose to have in-person assisters, while states that partner with the federal government and run consumer assistance must use in-person assisters.

Use this brief to understand the differences between navigators and in-person assisters, as well as the rules for how states can fund them. Advocates can also learn how to make recommendations depending on the type of marketplace their states pursues.