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A Week Before Affordable Care Act, Navigators Spreading The Word

HealthServe is closing in Greensboro this week and 20,000 people will have to find a medical provider elsewhere.

North Carolina is asking local health departments to work with people hired to give information about the Affordable Care Act. 

The Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter to every county last week, encouraging them to work with so-called health care navigators.  The federal government gave out about $3 million in grants to non-profits, hospitals and volunteers to hire navigators last month.

"Some people have a lot of familiarity.  Others are surprised that the law is still in effect," says Jennifer Simmons of Legal Aid of North Carolina, a group that has been sending out navigators to tell people about the law.

"We believe that are a few really important points.  One is that people can enroll anytime from October 1 all the way through March 31.  We have a full six-month window to help everybody who wants to get this in-person assistance."

Some states, like Florida, have put restrictions on how navigators can work with the public, but Simmons says her group's staff has been welcome at local health departments.      

"People really seem to be working together to reach the eventual goal of this project, which of course is to help people get health insurance, so I've been pleased at how receptive everyone is to the possibility of getting this service for their client population," she said.

North Carolinians will be able to start shopping for plans in the health care exchange next week.  The first policies are set to take effect January 1.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
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