NEW ORLEANS - Enrolling in one of the new health care insurance plans can be confusing. So the government is paying people to help you navigate the system.
Private insurance companies also have experts who can help you sign up and sort through the issues.
So what's the difference in the two?
A New Orleans navigator went door to door Wednesday in the Upper Ninth Ward.
"We're just doing outreach and enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Do you currently have health insurance?" she asks a resident.
Cam Nguyen is a navigator hired by taxpayer dollars, to help people enroll in one of the new health insurance plans. The grant came through the non-profit Southern United Neighborhoods in New Orleans. She canvases neighborhoods, goes to churches and community events meeting and informing people.
"We've signed up quite a few and I think people are starting to call us more now that they are having issues with the website, and then now that they are starting to know more about, 'OK, I might actually be eligible for it,'" said Nguyen, a health care navigator hired through Southern United Neighborhoods.
The question she gets asked most is, 'Am I eligible for a government subsidy,' to help with the cost of the mandated insurance.
While the navigators say they are helping people by going door to door in their own neighborhoods, the insurance agents, who've been doing this job for decades, say they have concerns about the recently hired navigators.
"These navigators, number one, are not licensed insurance agents. Number two, they don't carry errors and omissions insurance. Number three, the navigators or organizations that receive the grants, are not performing background checks on the individuals that are going to have access to your personal, identifiable information," said Gabriel P. Janusa, President of Demand Insurance & Benefits, LLC in Metairie.
The agents say advising people and businesses on the best plan for their needs is their career. They have been studying the new law now for two years. They say their service doesn't cost the consumer anything, and they are required to be registered with the state.
"They (the government officials) decided not to force them (navigators) to be licensed in the State of Louisiana through the Department of Insurance, because some of those people are felons. I can't be a felon and give you advice on their health care," explained Patrick Taylor, President of Benefit Planning Group in Metairie.
Louisiana navigators say they had required training. They studied the new law for as much as 15 hours on the internet and have a manual to look up answers to questions that might come up. They had to pass an extensive exam and are bound by strict rules.
"You can't store any detail or any file or any security number. You can't store anything," Nguyen explained about being given personal income or Social Security numbers. And she added she can only give facts about the law, no advice. "You have to stay neutral. You can't steer people towards something."
So whether you enroll for medical insurance with a navigator or an insurance agent, you have two more months to register if you want for coverage to start on January 1. Enrollment is open until March 31 for coverage for the rest of the 2014.
For information on the enrollment process, you can call 1-800-259-5300.
You can also visit www.healthcare.gov or the special health care page on this site.