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California to delay navigator launch

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Covered California managers want to put off the start date of their navigator program and get by instead with 16,000 “certified enrollment counselors” and 9,000 to 15,000 certified insurance agents.

Sarah Soto-Taylor, the deputy director of community relations at the state-based exchange, talked about the Navigator program delay Thursday at an exchange board meeting.

The state’s navigators, or independent exchange ombudsmen, won’t be ready to serve consumers until June 2014, Soto-Taylor said, according to a written version of her presentation.

In June, a proposed navigator program timeline showed the navigators would be up and running by January 2014.

The exchange board is still working on the regulations needed to run an official Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Navigator program, Soto-Taylor said.

Covered California will compensate by training about 16,000 outreach and education workers, and 9,000 to 15,000 insurance agents, officials said.

The outreach workers will tell consumers about the exchange system but won’t help with enrollment.

When outreach staff training began July 8, the exchange expected about 1,000 trainees, according to Thien Lam, deputy director for eligibility and enrollment.

Instead, the exchange has received 2,600 applications and trained 1,726 people.

The enrollment assistance program — a program for workers who will help people sign up for the exchange system — could train 2,750 people in traditional classes in September, then about 13,000 people through traditional and computer-based classes in the next three months, officials said.

For agents, the exchange expects to offer training for 9,000 students in September and October. The exchange could provide training for up to 6,000 more agents in future months, if agents want the training.

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