$54 million: Price for just one year of Obamacare 'navigators'

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

The Obama administration has set aside $54 million in federal grants to fund the first year of Obamacare "navigators," the community activists, union members and health professionals who will be paid to help an estimated 7 million Americans sign up for health exchanges nationwide.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which will run Obamacare, said that those seeking grants must apply by June 7. The health care program kicks in Oct. 1, when Americans can sign up for health care coverage to begin Jan, 1.

"Navigators will be an important resource for the millions of Americans who are eligible to enroll in new coverage opportunities through the Marketplace starting in October of 2013," acting Medicare administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in a statement.

The feds said those allowed to apply include "eligible self-employed individuals and private and public entities."

Other documents said that each exchange must have two types of navigators to help health care applicants and insurance brokers and agents. One must be a from a "community- and consumer-focused nonprofit." The others can include union workers, Native Americans and those from "professional associations." All must be experts in the the program and are required to offer unbiased advice.

The number of navigators is expected to reach into the tens of thousands. California plans to have 21,000 of them.

Previous administration documentation suggested that an hourly wage of $20 to $48 should be used when calculating the cost of training navigators.