Combining Tax Prep and Affordable Health Insurance

Questions Part I: Training


What do tax volunteers have to do in order to assist and advise clients on the Affordable Care Act?

Tax volunteers can get certified to be a Certified Application Counselor (CAC) through an online training which takes about five hours.  But even without the CAC certification, an experienced tax preparer has the knowledge necessary to help people with some of the trickier aspects of the application, including projecting modified adjusted gross income, filing status and dependency.
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Is it only Certified Application Counselors who can help people enroll in plans?

No.  There is a group of Navigators which is a separate title but performs most of the same functions.  Also, people can enroll themselves at http://www.healthcare.gov/. And non-certified helpers, like tax preparers, can help consumers enroll.
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Can anyone be a Certified Application Counselor?  There are Certified Application Counselors, Navigators, and then Champions of Coverage.  What is the difference between those?  What does it take to be each?

  • A Champion of Coverage is an organization committed to promoting insurance coverage but does not necessarily provide enrollment assistance itself.
  • Certified Application Counselors (CAC) are trained to help people complete the Marketplace application and sort through their insurance options.  It takes roughly five hours to complete the online mandatory and optional training modules  including the exams.  An individual who has completed the CAC curriculum must then be deemed a CAC by  an organization that has been approved and designated as a CAC organization. (Note that an organization can be in the process of applying to be a Certified Application Counselor-designated organization, while simultaneously having volunteers completing the training. It’s a one-page application for an organization to apply and application must be submitted to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Click here to listen to this portion of the webinar. )
  • Navigators are people who were chosen for a special federal funding opportunity, and that is their chief difference.  Many states have different training requirements for this position.  They’re doing the same thing as the CACs but they also have a general promotional mission, wherein they’re supposed to go out and identify uninsured people.  CACs are not required to do outreach but may choose to do so. Click here to listen to this portion of the webinar.

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Can the same person become a Navigator and a Certified Application Counselor?

Being a Navigator means that you received federal grant to help people get enrolled in coverage.  Those grants were issued in August and are no longer available. The training process for becoming a Certified Application Counselor is ongoing and free. The trainings are similar — there’s  no reason to do both.
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Can an individual not associated with a Certified Application Counselor Organization become a Certified Application Counselor?  Do you have to be affiliated with an organization that has completed the application or is about to complete it?

An individual can complete the online training, but in order to use the Certified Application Counselor title, they would need to be deemed a CAC by an organization that’s been designated as a Certified Application Counselor Organization.   If organizations want to start their applications now, they can have volunteers go through the online training while they’re waiting for their organization application to be processed.
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How long does it take for an organization to be approved to become a Certified Application Organization?

Organizational applications to become Certified Application Counselor Organizations requires a one page application that is reviewed by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. The turnaround on an application is typically few weeks.  The training process for individuals takes about 5 hours for both the mandatory and optional training (we strongly recommend the optional training modules).  The training can be broken up by module, but once a trainee starts a module they must complete it in one sitting.
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Where do people go for the online training?

Training is provided through the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare services at http://marketplace.cms.gov/training/get-training.html
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If a VITA site doesn’t have anyone trained, could that site find a Navigator from elsewhere and invite them to assist at their site?

Yes.  You could find a Navigator or a Certified Application Counselor in your community to work out of your VITA site.  They’re often affiliated with health centers or non-profit organizations that assist people in obtaining other benefits.
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Other Comments:

There are required options and optional modules.  It is highly recommended that volunteers complete both the mandatory and optional modules of the online training.
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RuFES is a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group.
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