KHI News Service

Kansas lands its first marketplace navigator

By Dave Ranney | September 18, 2013

Craig Chronister, an eligibility worker at the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas.

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Kansas has its first certified health insurance marketplace navigator.

He’s Craig Chronister, an eligibility worker at the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas.

“I’ve completed the training,” Chronister said Wednesday. “It was good. I feel like I’m prepared for whatever’s going to happen.”

Starting Oct. 1, he’ll be one of about 250 navigators who are expected to begin helping Kansans enroll in plans available through the new health insurance marketplace, a key element of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Chronister said his online training course took several hours to complete.

“It wasn’t necessarily hard or what I’d call boring,” he said. “But it wasn’t something you could breeze through in an afternoon. I took me the better part of two or three days.”

His goal now, he said, is “to help people find their way through the system, whether it’s online or on paper.”

Coverage obtained through the marketplace or exchange will be effective Jan. 1, 2014.

The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas is a member of the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved, which is leading a consortium of state organizations that recently was awarded a $525,000 grant for helping the public understand the mandates in the Affordable Care Act and take advantage of the marketplace.

The consortium’s members:

  • Kansas Hospital Education and Research Foundation
  • Kansas Insurance Department
  • Kansas Association of Local Health Departments
  • Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas
  • Kansas Association of Area Agencies on Aging and Disabilities

Cathy Harding, CEO of the Wyandotte Health Foundation.

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“As of late Monday, we had 185 people who’d signed up to be navigators,” said KAMU Executive Director Cathy Harding. “And more are still coming in.”

All but a few of the applicants, she said, already work for the consortium’s members.

“In one county, it may be somebody with the local health department,” Harding said. “In another county, it may be somebody at the mental health center or the hospital or safety-net clinic. It’s all over the map, literally.”

The consortium, she said, is focusing most of its attention on getting the current crop of would-be navigators through the process.

“We don’t have a lot of time,” Harding said. “So at this point we’re doing everything we can to get them trained and certified as quickly as we can. Once that’s out of the way — probably around Oct. 1 — we’ll start on the next phase, which will include expansion.

“We don’t want to limit this in any way,” she said. “It’s just that we have to get this initial group taken care of first.”

Harding encouraged anyone interested in becoming a navigator to send an email to Debbie Berndsen, who’s overseeing the consortium’s recruitment efforts. Her email address is

“All that we ask is that they be part of a larger organization,” Harding said. “Also, they need to know that there’s a background check that goes with this. We have an agency that does that for us.”

Harding said she expects to hire a project director for the Wichita area in about a week.

“We’re also looking to hire a project director for southeast Kansas and one for southwest Kansas,” she said.

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