Navigators in the federal Insurance Navigator Program (“Navigator Program”), who are employed by organizations in states with Federally Facilitated Marketplaces, provide enrollment assistance, outreach, and education to individuals who are eligible for health insurance coverage. Such work is central to public health efforts to address inequities but continues to be poorly understood and undervalued. More information is needed to understand the components of navigators' equity work and how decreases in program funding have affected their service provision.
To examine navigators' labor at a granular level to better understand and highlight the equity work they do, the training and skills required for this work, and the Navigator Program–based challenges they face.
This was a descriptive qualitative study using data collected from interviews conducted in February-May 2021. We used a thematic analysis approach to develop major themes and subthemes.
This was a national study.
We conducted 18 semistructured interviews with 24 directors, navigators, and other professionals at organizations funded as federally certified Navigator Programs.
Main Outcome Measures:
Components of navigators' work; required training and skills; and challenges faced in accomplishing the work.
We identified 3 major themes: (1) navigators' health equity work goes beyond required responsibilities; (2) equity skills are built on the job; and (3) financial instabilities challenge navigators' health equity work.
Navigators bring specialized and essential skills and services to underserved communities. They are trusted sources of information, advocates, resource connectors, and, most significantly, health equity workers. However, the Navigator Program fails to support navigators' work and the communities they serve in the long term. To facilitate organizations' capacities to train, keep, and support navigators in this health equity work and to guarantee long-term enrollment assistance for underserved communities, efforts to stabilize funding are needed.