Carrie Fry has been preparing for Tuesday's opening of the new health insurance marketplace for about a month. She's one of the new state navigators, the federally trained, federally funded experts set to guide hundreds of thousands of eligible Tennesseans through the system.
It's not a highly paid job, but Fry says she couldn't wait to do it after writing her Master's thesis on barriers to health insurance.
She told News 2, “When this opportunity arose it was immediate, it was 'That's it! That's the job I want' because it's going to allow me to help fill that gap. It's going to allow me to help get these people access to the coverage and the care they really need.”
Fry and seven other navigators are paid through the Tennessee Primary Care Association, one of two Tennessee groups that received federal money for the navigators. The other is Seedco.
Across the country, $67 million in navigator grants were awarded to more than 100 organizations. Their task will be to provide outreach primarily to the uninsured and under-insured and guide individuals through the marketplace, without choosing plans for them.
The preparation has been challenging, says Fry, because the U.S. Health and Human Services Department has been slow to approve the plans offered through the marketplace by private insurers.
“A lot of this has been down to the last minute,” she explained. “I think we've grown very patient and understand the need for flexibility in this work because this law, this effort, changes every single day. So we've become really flexible and we're just waiting.”
Now that the wait is over, and the insurance marketplace is open, consumers can start by logging onto Healthcare.gov. There are also dozens of local community based health centers ready to help. To find a center, visit TPCA's Web site.