SC| The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) new Virginia Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) has awarded navigator grants to Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC) and Boat People SOS, Inc. (BPSOS). The grants will support the work of these organizations to help Virginians navigate, shop for, and enroll in health insurance coverage through HealthCare.gov.
VPLC received nearly $1.5 million in grant money. VPLC established “ENROLL Virginia!,” a statewide consortium of community-based and consumer-focused nonprofits that educate Virginians about the health insurance marketplace. BPSOS was awarded a $365,000 grant. BPSOS is a national nonprofit headquartered in Northern Virginia with a focus on serving the Asian-American community in that area.
VPLC has served as a navigator organization since the federal grant program began in 2013 to assist individuals, small employers, and their employees as they look for health coverage options through the health benefit exchange and the small employer health options (SHOP) marketplace. BPSOS has served Virginians in a similar role for the past five years.
Navigators help consumers understand health insurance plan options and assist them in applying for government subsidies through the health benefit exchange. They are not affiliated with or funded by any health insurer, and their services are free of charge to the consumer. Although they are not required to be licensed, navigator individuals must complete an annual certification with the Exchange and a registration process with the Bureau of Insurance that includes updated training each year.
Virginia’s navigators have previously been funded through federal grant programs. Virginia is establishing a state-based health insurance exchange for the individual and small business markets. The Virginia Exchange will operate on the federal exchange platform – HealthCare.gov – for plan years 2021 and 2022, and is expected to transition to a full state-based exchange by plan year 2023. Beginning this fall, the Virginia Exchange will perform consumer outreach and education activities and offer consumer assistance.
“We are excited to be able to provide increased grant funding for navigators this year,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner and Acting Exchange Director Scott White. “The navigator organizations have an excellent network designed to increase awareness about opportunities to obtain lower-cost comprehensive coverage that may be available for individuals through HealthCare.gov. Even if you already have coverage, make sure to review your options each open enrollment period to find the option best suited for your circumstances.”
Navigators are available to assist Virginia residents in obtaining individual health insurance coverage during open enrollment for plan year 2021 that begins November 1, 2020, and ends on December 15, 2020. They also are available to assist residents throughout the year with post-enrollment questions and issues that arise, and special enrollment qualifications. Navigators also assist consumers throughout the year to provide information about other coverage options, such as the State Medicaid Program and FAMIS for children.
Navigators assist small employers and their employees in reviewing plan options via the SHOP marketplace. The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit is only available to employers who purchase a SHOP plan and meet other IRS requirements.
A locator tool to find free assistance from a navigator or other assister in your area can be accessed at coverva.org/assistance. Information and help for small employers is available at coverva.org/business.
Contact: Katha Treanor