Program to help people navigate new exchanges

By By Lance Traweek / American Press

With the health insurance marketplace enrollment opening in October, the Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center

(AHEC) has been awarded a $1.1 million federal grant to fund “navigators,” who will help educate the uninsured across the


The award was part of $67 million in grants, which were given to 105 groups nationwide. Four Louisiana organizations will

split $1.8 million in grants — with the SWLA AHEC getting the largest amount.

With nearly 400,000 uninsured and under-insured Louisianians, the goal of the navigators will be to raise awareness and provide

education, said director Brian Burton.

“As they are entering the marketplace

for the first time and trying to figure out their options, our

navigators will be a

resource for them to answer questions and to help them pick the

insurance plan that best works for them,” Burton said. “Our

goal is to get out there and help people make the most informed

decision that they can make with information that is not based

on rumors, fear or propaganda.”

He said the exchange will give those eligible “better control” and “more choices,” without having to worry about any “hidden


“We are quite excited that this statewide project will be run out of Lake Charles,” Burton said. “We have a long history of

doing both community outreach and providing health education information through previous programs.”

The SWLA AHEC is in the process of

hiring and training navigators for the yearlong project. The non-profit

will focus on community

outreach through presentations at community centers and social

service organizations.

Open enrollment will go from October to the end of December, and benefits will begin in January.