Navigators: The Folks Who Will Help You Surf the New Insurance Exchanges

Over at, I’ve addressed some “frequently asked questions” about the “navigators” who will help individuals and small business find the coverage they want in the new Exchanges. 

— Who Will Become Navigators?

—  Can Insurance Agents and Brokers Apply to Be Navigators? (Wouldn’t that create a conflict of interest?)

—  Just How Will Navigators Help People Sort Out Their Options in the Exchanges?

—  How Much Training Will They Receive?

–Finally, many people worry that the “navigators” just won’t be able to handle the heavy traffic. Giving the American public the information it will need about Obamacare is an enormous task. Will these navigators be up to it?

The answer to that last question is that the navigators will have help.  Patient advocacy groups, the states, and county health agencies will pitch in.  The federal government  also is launching a marketing program, “Enroll America” that will urge mothers to nag their uninsured 20-something and 30-something sons. (Seriously– and I expect that in many cases, this will be effective.)

Meanwhile insurers will be eager to draw young, healthy customers into the Exchanges. This means that they will invest in marketing campaigns designed to let 20-somethings and 30-somethings know that the vast majority will be eligible for generous government subsidies.

Just one example: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois already has launched a “Be Covered Illinois” campaign. The campaign is being funded by the insurer, and carried out by various community groups:  

Keep in mind that if insurers mislead customers about their offerings, those customers will have an opportunity to pick a different plan a year later. And under the ACA, they will have “navigators” to help them make a better choice.

Insurers know this. They  also are well aware  that under the new ACA rules that regulate them, a health insurance company will have to draw—and keep—a large share of the market’s customers in order to survive financially. For that reason, I suspect that savvy insurers will make a major effort to provide information about specific plans that will attract customers who will want to stick with those plans.

For my answers to the first four questions above, go to Health, click on the question and the answer will pop up.

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How Will Age and Gender Affect Your Health Insurance Premiums in 2014?


Below, a guest-post by Kev Coleman,  head of research and data at HealthPocket  I recently stumbled onto his blog, and now read it regularly. Coleman  does an impressive job of crunching the numbers  on health care and health care reform—with some surprising results.  

 Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)  insurers can charge older Americans up to 3 times as much as they would charge a 20-something for exactly the same policy. That might sound steep, but today, in many states, insurers can charge older customers 5 times as much.  

Some politicians and industry analysts have predicted that because the ACA limits the ratio to just 3:1 (or 300%) , this will would drive up health insurance premiums for younger enrollees, particularly those in their twenties.

To determine the credibility of that prediction, HealthPocket examined over 20,000 premium quotes within the individual & family insurance market for men and women ages 23, 30, and 63.  

 We found that in 14 states the average 63-year-old now shells out more than three times what a 23 year old pays. But in six of those states his premium exceeded what a younger customers by less than 310%.  In other words, in these states the 63 year old is paying just slightly more than he would under the ACA.

Moreover, the typical 63 year old was not paying 4 times as much as the 23 year old in any of these states. The most expensive state for the average 63-year was Delaware, where his premium would be 382% higher. And Delaware is an outlier.  Nationally the difference in premiums between applicants age 63 and applicants age 23 averaged just 260%, making it unlikely that the ACA’s 300% limit on age-adjusted premiums will be a factor that drives younger Americans premiums skiy-high.

However, these averages mask the differences in premiums between men and women. The majority of states allow insurers to offer women and men different premiums even if the women and men share the same age, health status, and smoking status.


[As I have reported in the past, when women buy their own health insurance in the individual market, they must lay out an extra $1 billion a year, simply because they are women. Insurers explain that women cost them more, even if policies don’t cover maternity, because “they are more likely to visit doctors, get regular check-ups, take prescription drugs, and have certain chronic illnesses.” In other words, women are penalized for taking care of themselves. MM]

 HealthPocket’s analysis reveals that female health insurance applicants average higher insurance premiums at age 23 than men of the same age. When comparing 30 year-olds to 23 year-olds, 30-year-old women faced an even higher gender-adjusted premium.

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