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Monday, September 23, 2013 - 2:54am

Cities Rely On Clinics For Navigators

Georgia's two federally-funded health navigator grants are going to organizations based mainly in Georgia's largest city and its smallest towns.

But what about cities in between?

Mid-sized cities like Columbus and Augusta were left out.

But they aren't completely on their own.

About 100 health navigators will help nearly two million uninsured Georgians find a health plan under the Affordable Care Act.

About 20 of them are in a collaborative whose members are almost all in Metro Atlanta.

Eleven are part of the University of Georgia's work in rural areas.

Dale Carlson-Bebout of the Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council says six will work in Savannah.

"That is not enough for Chatham County by any means," Carlson-Bebout says. "But it is certainly much greater than some of the outreach that's being done in rural counties that don't have any of those resources."

The six are assigned to federally-qualified health centers.

About 60 navigators will work at similar centers in cities -- big, medium and small -- statewide.

Some health advocates question whether the distribution is proportional to the number of uninsured.

Janice Sherman of Augusta's Neighborhood Improvement Project says three navigators will work in Richmond County.

"It would have been beneficial if they were disbursed a little bit more throughout the state given the high number of uninsured folks across the entire state," Sherman says. "It would've been a little bit more efficient if there was a little bit better spread."

Georgia would have received funding for more navigators.

But state officials chose not to set up a state health exchange, citing cost and regulations.

Amanda Ptashkin of Georgians for a Healthy Future says that navigators are still being hired and their placement isn't entirely determined yet.

"We're trying to maximize opportunities and figure out the coverage that we're going to be able to provide to people," Ptashkin says. "We are working to create a statewide coalition that connects people to the resources in their community that can help them enroll."

Georgians for a Healthy Future is the lead partner of the Atlanta-based coalition awarded funds for about 20 navigators.

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