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.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.