Navigator program tries to avoid controversy

The University of Georgia health navigator program has been keeping a low public profile since opponents of the Affordable Care Act held a protest at a navigator event in Coweta County in November.

Sheri Worthy, a UGA official, said the Coweta meeting and those scheduled after that were canceled because Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that opposes the ACA, posted the navigators’ events on its website and encouraged protests at them.

[youtube][/youtube]The protesters who showed up in Coweta rallied peacefully outside the county Extension Service office, calling on UGA to stop supplying navigators to help people sign up for insurance coverage under the ACA, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Worthy, head of UGA’s Department of Financial Planning, Housing and Consumer Economics (FHCE), addressed this and other challenges of implementing the program in a seminar last month on the Athens campus.

The UGA unit received a grant last year from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to implement the health navigator program.

“We just really refocused our efforts on working with individuals and trying to get people enrolled, and working in smaller, trusted venues instead of doing these big events,” said Worthy.

The biggest challenge, she added, has been learning how the media and politics factor into the navigator program. Although the press has been mostly positive, Worthy said, the Affordable Care Act is still a controversial issue.

Navigators have to learn how to deal with the media and understand the political issues surrounding the program.

The seminar was held as part of the College of Family and Consumer Science’s FHCE Showcase Week.

Hyacinth Empinado is a freelance science writer. She is currently a first-year graduate student in the health and medical journalism program at the University of Georgia.