Threading the maze: Local navigators help residents decipher health care law

When the bulk of the Affordable Care Act kicks in Jan. 1, it will offer many people currently without health insurance the possibility of obtaining it. Those who now have individual policies may be eligible for more complete coverage and even subsidies to help pay for it. But the law’s extreme complexity has left many people scratching their heads, and a dysfunctional federal website, together with the state Legislature’s refusal to expand Medicaid, has further complicated matters.

One-third of the Asheville area’s workforce earns low wages, census data show, and a comparable percentage of people lack health insurance (according to Buncombe County’s last health assessment), so the plans offered under the health care law could have a significant local impact.

To help people figure out the new law and determine whether it can offer them a better deal, trained “navigators” are offering in-person assistance. Two well-established local nonprofits — Pisgah Legal Services and the Council on Aging of Buncombe County — are overseeing the navigators in this area and providing public information sessions.

Here’s a look at the reactions they’re seeing so far, information on how to connect with these services and on-the-ground perspectives from a couple of volunteer navigators.

Numbers, resources and facts

A few key points Council on Aging volunteer navigator Kayla Shaffer answers some basic questions.

Common misunderstandings Executive Director Jim Barrett of Pisgah Legal Services clears up some points of confusion.

An inside perspective How volunteer navigator Jim Carillon sees the process playing out so far.

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