KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Many Americans will want some face-to-face help in sorting through their options for health insurance with the marketplace opening Tuesday. Those who can help you include navigators, counselors and insurance agents.
Twenty people in a room in Kansas City's midtown have a big task ahead. They were training as navigators at the Shepherd Center so they can help the uninsured find coverage on the marketplace.
Navigators are required to have 20 hours of online training and be licensed in Missouri.
"We don't recommend a plan. We aren't paid by anybody to recommend a plan or any of that," said Pamela Seymour, a navigator.
Many are paid through federal grants. Some others are volunteer. The twenty navigators with the Shepherd Center will cover Jackson, Clay and Platte Counties.
"But there's thousands and thousands of people in Kansas City who are going to need help," said Seymour.
So where else can you turn? Other navigators and certified application counselors will be in health clinics for the uninsured, hospitals and community centers. Seymour said counselors have less training time than navigators.
Your other option -- an independent insurance agent or broker. They're paid by the insurers whose plans they sell.
"As an independent agent, you want to do what's best for your client because you can't stay in business if you don't," said Beverly Gossage of HSA Benefits Consulting.
An independent agent may be especially beneficial for those who don't qualify for a subsidy or much of one on the exchange.
"Because yes, there could be other options at better prices outside the exchange, and an insurance agent can show you all of those," said Gossage.
She is helping Mike Bosch, a small business owner, in getting coverage for his family.
"I have to lean on Beverly because there's no way I can figure this out and still run my business," said Bosch.
She's advising Bosch to buy a plan now that will go into effect December 1. That's ahead of the January 1 changes with the health care law which she says will make the cost higher.
To find a navigator, go to https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/
To find an independent agent, go to http://www.nahu.org/consumer/findagent2.cfm