Health & Wellness Science & Technology Society & Culture

UGA to help Georgians navigate health insurance options

Athens, Ga. – Twelve University of Georgia health navigators are working through their final days of training as they prepare to help Georgians across the state learn about their options under the new health insurance marketplaces.

On Oct. 1, the UGA employees, housed under the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, will begin to offer education to consumers, small business owners and employees as these individuals and organizations decide on the best health insurance to meet their needs. Additionally, navigators will help Georgians apply—either electronically or by paper—to establish eligibility, enroll in coverage and potentially qualify for an insurance affordability program.

The navigators will be located in UGA Extension offices to serve the immediate surrounding counties with base offices located in Wilkes, Dawson and Habersham counties in northeast Georgia; Gordon, Newton, Coweta and Upson counties in northwest Georgia; Thomas County in southwest Georgia; and Johnson, Coffee and Liberty counties in southeast Georgia. Additional staff will be located in the Hoke Smith Annex at UGA in Athens.

Health navigators will have completed comprehensive training through the state of Georgia and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, and will have passed a final exam before they are credentialed. In August, CMS signed cooperative agreements with 105 entities—including UGA—that will serve the 34 federally facilitated and state partnership marketplaces.

“The health insurance marketplace is something new for consumers to learn how to navigate,” said Joan Koonce, Extension family financial planning specialist. “We are happy to provide unbiased education to Georgians across the state and in all walks of life. We are working to do everything we can to help the people in our state, and this is just one of the many venues in which we can offer our expertise.”

Contact information for the UGA Extension offices and health navigators is available at The Health Navigator program is being overseen by faculty in the college and UGA Extension and supported by eight faculty members in the college’s various departments.

“UGA Extension has the depth and breadth of reach across the state to efficiently implement the educational outreach program to help Georgians comply with the law,” said Deborah Murrary, associate dean in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “Every UGA Extension office will have information to direct uninsured consumers needing consumer education and navigation assistance with the federally facilitated health insurance marketplace exhange.”

For more information on the Health Navigator program, including the health insurance marketplaces for individuals and families as well as small business owners, see