Navigator grant recipients under scrutiny by committee - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Navigator grant recipients under scrutiny by committee

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They are called healthcare navigators-- workers hired to help the uninsured navigate the process of choosing insurance as part of health care reform.
  
But the agencies overseeing the navigators are suddenly under the gun to provide a large amount
 of information to a congressional committee.

The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a three page letter to agencies getting hefty navigator grants, one of which is in Southwest Louisiana.
 
Whether it's politics or a genuine effort to safeguard consumers depends on who's talking.

The Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center has an office in Lake Charles but is based here in Lafayette. The federal government is giving the agency, $1.1 million to help Louisiana's uninsured figure out what to do about getting health insurance. 

Project director Brian Burton says they're moving full speed ahead.

"We are working to hire our staff, to get our staff trained across the state.  We've got staff in Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria, Lake Charles, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, New Orleans.  They're going through their 20 hours Health and Human Services training in order to teach them how to be navigators.  They will be certified by the federal government in order to do that," said Burton.

But agencies receiving large navigator grants received a three page letter from a Republicans on a the Committee on Energy and Commerce on August 29th.  It demands a large volume of information and answers due today, September 13.

Burton says he understands the purpose.

"Just to make sure that what we are doing is appropriate, that we are not in conjunction or we are not working with any of the insurance providers in the state and so we're very happy to reply to all of that," said Burton.

He says the U.S. Health and Human services is helping them and that on Monday they will participate in a conference call aimed at satisfying the committees concerns.  Just before that, he says, they've been told President Obama will call.

"(We) expect a call from him to congratulate.  He's our cheerleader.  He's up there saying go forth, do what we are here to do, and we're really proud of you.  You are the community motivators, you are the ones getting out there doing that and don't let the partisan politics get in the way of what you're trying to do," said Burton.

And Burton says they are well prepared to protect consumers' private information, which is one of the committee's concerns.

Those with Southwest Louisiana AHEC say they have hit the ground running to be ready to go when it's time to do what they were hired to do October 2.

Sharon Womack, CEO Central Louisiana Area Health Education Center.

"We're going to be looking at geography and chopping it up and virtually divvying it up among the navigators so that we can have a strategic approach to going into communities, sharing information and assisting with individuals picking what insurance is appropriate for them," said Womack.

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