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North Dakota Navigator Project ready for open enrollment

The North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities, a center of excellence at Minot State University, was recently awarded $300,000 as a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to assist North Dakota consumers in accessing health insurance through the federal Marketplace with the North Dakota Navigator Project. This is the fourth year of funding and will support the efforts to bring awareness of the Affordable Care Act at the local level.

 “Efforts have been made to inform and assist North Dakota residents in accessing health insurance,” said Neil Scharpe, project director. “Through partnerships with Family Voices of North Dakota, the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health and DLN Consulting, we have certified 12-16 Navigators each year. These people are located in the eight major cities and have responsibility to cover the counties in their region.”

While Navigators are not insurance agents, they can guide consumers through choosing a plan, but even more importantly, they can help by identifying options a person may have for accessing coverage and explaining how the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) works. Many residents have not considered the options which may be available to them to lower their monthly premiums or provide coverage at no cost.

This year if an individual household income is below $16,242 and the individual is single, they could get free health insurance. If a household income is $16,500 and the individual is 30 years old, the person could get insurance for $80 per month with no deductible and $750 maximum out-of-pocket expense for the year.

As the program enters its fourth year of open enrollment, accessing insurance is much easier than it was the first year or two. The system works better, but a Navigator can help guide people through the process. There is no charge, and the Navigators know the pitfalls individuals may encounter.

The N.D. Legislature authorized the Expanded Medicaid portion of the ACA in 2010 with a sunset in 2017.

“If it is to continue, the legislature will have to act this session,” Scharpe said. “It has been a positive addition to the health insurance coverage options. It also assists medical facilities with patients who would not ordinarily be able to pay for services. It helps consumers receive regular preventative care, which can identify medical issues early and avoid added expenses.”

If someone does not have health insurance, they can contact a Navigator at 800-233-1737, or follow on Facebook at ND Navigator Project.

If an organization would like a Navigator to speak to its staff or constituents, contact Scharpe at (701)858-3596 or

Published: 10/24/16

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