This fall, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans will have a chance to purchase health coverage in the much anticipated insurance marketplace. In January, many others will be newly eligible for Medicaid coverage. To help consumers understand all their new options, the law is creating a formal “navigator” program and other in-person assistance programs designed to help consumers enroll and learn about how to access care under their new coverage.  Organizations and health entities can apply to become formal navigators and educate and guide consumers through their application processes.

To ensure the program improves access to care for all Americans, the American Public Health Association submitted comments this week on the proposed rule outlining new standards for Navigators and other assistance personnel. In its letter (PDF) to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, APHA expressed its support of many of the new standards, and offered recommendations for strengthening some. Among the requirements, navigators must achieve certain training standards such as being equipped to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services to their consumers, and maintaining knowledge about racial, ethnic, and cultural groups in their area.

“We urge CMS to broaden the scope of required knowledge, to add at least disability, gender and sexual orientation,” wrote APHA’s executive director Georges Benjamin, MD.

Earlier this year, the administration announced that approximately $332 million in fiscal year 2013 funding will be reallocated from the Prevention and Public Health Fund to support the navigators and other outreach and enrollment efforts.

The grant application deadline for prospective navigators is June 7. For more information, visit www.grants.gov and search for CFDA # 93.750.

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