Affordable Care Act Navigators Just Trying to Sign People Up for Health Care

Brookings Fellow Kavita Patel discussed “Obamacare navigators” on Chris Hayes’ show last night, following a congressional hearing in Richardson, Texas led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), during which pointed the spotlight at Affordable Care Act navigators, even casting them into the same light as the now-defunct Acorn organization. Patel, who has helped train patient navigators, explains: 

They’re really just trying to sign people up for health care. … They went through the requisite 20 hours of training … [they] are people who know the health care system, are from nonprofits in the communities, community health centers. And they actually have gone through a longer period of health care training that will help to get people signed up. … A lot of what they are trying to do is just meet the demands,  there are so many people asking questions.

Watch below (Patel’s part begins at 4:00):

She says that thwarting the work of ACA patient navigators will hurt non-English speaking populations the most. Having patient navigators, she says, “makes sense. Who would think explaining how to sign up [for health care] or … getting to the sickest people is a bad idea?”

Patel, a fellow and managing director for clinical transformation and delivery with the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at Brookings, and a practicing primary care physician at Johns Hopkins Medicine, was named a “Disruptive Women to Watch in 2014” by Disruptive Women in Health Care

She was interviewed by the organization and explained how she arrived at the intersection of medicine and public policy:

I really wanted to find a balance between the essence of what drew me to medicine, seeing patients, and having an impact on the policies that define the delivery of healthcare in our country. I thought about everything – working in a homeless clinic in south Los Angeles, trying to launch a citywide effort to implement universal healthcare, exploring hospital administration and the nonprofit sector. Ultimately, I was drawn to working on national policy via Capitol Hill when I saw Senator Edward Kennedy delivering 17 minutes of a passionate speech to increase the minimum wage on television. Watching him try to push a stalemate Congress to fight for the needs of the working class, the poor and Americans who struggle each day to provide food, housing, clothing and healthcare made everything click for me. I knew that working for the Lion of the Senate would be the experience of a lifetime and it was truly a combination of serendipity and humility.

Read the full interview here.

Get more on implementation of the Affordable Care Act here.