Across the country, the federal government is bestowing millions of dollars on a navigator program and an array of non-profits to help guide people through the public health insurance exchanges set to open Oct. 1. But a new national survey raises questions about how readily consumers will turn to these groups for help on health coverage. 

The study, conducted by HealthPocket.com, a nonpartisan website that compares and ranks health plans for individuals, families and small businesses, found that navigators and non-profits are the least likely sources for information about health insurance to which consumers will turn. According to the survey, consumers are far more likely to look to their doctors and pharmacists for advice, and even more likely to stand pat with the insurance they already have and not seek any sort of new information at all.

"The financial viability of the new health insurance exchanges is closely tied to the enrollment of younger, healthier individuals, and administration officials have stated that they would like to get 2.7 million enrolled from this age segment," says Bruce Telkamp, CEO of HealthPocket, based in Sunnyvale, Calif. “Given that only 3% of consumers in the critically important 18 to 34 year age group indicated that they will use navigators or nonprofits as a primary source of advice, the administration will need to rely heavily on marketing channels outside of the navigator program and nonprofit outreach to meet its enrollment goals."

Navigator is the term used by the Affordable Care Act to describe the health insurance counselors and customer service personnel who will help people enroll and sort through their health plan options on the new exchanges. Last week, the Obama administration announced it was awarding another $67 million in grants to non-profits and other community-based organizations servicing the federally run state exchanges.

The HealthPocket.com survey was conducted earlier this month with 1,150 respondents. For the complete survey results go to InfoPoll at HealthPocket.com

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