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"Navigators" picked to guide Michiganders through health plans tied to the Affordable Care Act

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Four groups have been tapped by the federal government to help low income Michiganders navigate their way through the new federally mandated health insurance market.

The new health insurance marketplace is set to open on October 1st. About a million Michiganders without insurance will have to pick among a dozen or so health plans.

To help them, the federal government has picked four groups to serve as “navigators”.

Michigan Consumers for Healthcare Executive Director Don Hazaert says they will start training people quickly to counsel low income Michiganders about their Obamacare choices.

“We’ve got a huge number of folks who are going to be eligible for coverage in one way or another come October one. So there’s a big task in front of us,’ says Hazaert.

MCH is a coalition of groups, ranging from labor unions to local YWCA chapters.

Others groups picked to be ACA navigators are the Community Bridges Management, the Arab Community Center for Economic & Social Services, and American Indian Health and Family Services of Southeastern Michigan.

Between them, the four groups are getting $2.5 million dollars from the federal government. 

Hazaert says it would be nice to have the $21 million the federal government offered the state of Michigan to do the job.  The legislature rejected that money.

“That certainly would be helpful if we had that $21 million dollars to assist us….but what’s available is what’s available,” says Hazaert.

MCH’s Don Hazaert says he’s not worried that none of the dozen or so health care plans submitted in Michigan have been approved yet.    He expects the plans will be ready by October 1st.

While people can start signing up for the Obamacare plans on October 1st, Hazaert says they have until the end of March to enroll.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.