Enrollment opened Monday, but so far there are only three licensed In Person Assisters in Northwest Arkansas. Katriona Luzardo and seven other people finished up the third and final phase of training on Wednesday. The intensive course makes them experts on the Affordable Care Act in Arkansas.
"Before I became an IPA I'm pretty sure I would have needed guidance," Luzardo says. "It's important that we exist, because we can relate and we can explain in plain language as to what it is and how it benefits and how it pertains to everyone's personal situations."
Luzardo and her classmates are now waiting on licenses, and right now there isn't a single licenced IPA in all of Benton County.
"They're all at varying levels of training," says Loy Bailey, Administrator for the Benton County Health Unit.
The Benton and Washington County units will each have fourteen guides, and other agencies, like the Community Clinic are also adding IPAs to the staff.
"We'll have four here pretty soon," Bailey says. "We'll probably be a lot smarter a month from now than we are now, so it is a process. I mean no one's ever done it before, so we're kind of learning as we go."
It's the same problem many uninsured Arkansans are facing, but Luzardo and her peers are ready to spread the knowledge they've learned over the last few months.
"It sounds scary and it sounds like a lot," she says. "I'm speaking to anyone and everyone who has any fears, concerns or maybe just want to vent a little bit."
In addition to the IPAs, each county has licensed agents and brokers. The Arkansas Insurance Agency says more licenses are being issued everyday.
To find a guide near you, visit this website.