CHICAGO — —
One expert who is observing states' progress on training outreach workers said Illinois is doing well.
"The in-person counselor program in Illinois is in really good shape," said Chad Shearer, deputy director of the State Health Reform Assistance Network, a project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and housed at Princeton University in New Jersey. "They announced their grantee organizations (in July) and immediately on the heels of that they started training."
Shearer praised the training program. "I've seen it and it seems to meet the standards that everybody has been thinking and talking about," he said. The State Health Reform Assistance Network serves as a resource for states, including Illinois, as they implement the health law.
Chief among the challenges for states, Shearer said, is training people who are available for temporary, low-paying jobs to understand complicated concepts about shopping for health insurance and eligibility for new tax credits that will help many Americans pay for coverage. The best approach, he said, is walking trainees through different consumer situations using hypothetical scenarios.
Shearer isn't worried about the looming deadline.
"You can get a lot of people trained in a short period of time. Training won't stop on Oct. 1," he said.
In Illinois, 44 community organizations received grants to run in-person counselor programs. In addition, 11 groups were named last week by the federal government to operate Navigator programs in Illinois. Navigators and in-person counselors are essentially the same, but have different funding sources.
The grantee organizations can set their own standards, including educational requirements, for in-person counselors. In Springfield, Family Guidance Centers Inc. is looking for six people with high school diplomas or GEDs who will make $12 to $14.42 hourly.
One of the highest-paying jobs advertised is at the Illinois African American Coalition for Prevention, a Chicago group that's looking for a person with a master's degree who will make $45,000 to $52,000 as coordinator of the in-person counselor program.