On July 12, 2013, HHS released a final rule applicable to Exchange Navigators, Non-Navigator Assistance Personnel and Application Counselors. Although the final rule does not apply directly to plan sponsors, plan sponsors should familiarize themselves with the Exchange process and terminology should participants approach them with questions. 

The final rule finalizes the requirement that exchanges must have a certified application counselor program. It also creates conflict of interest training and certification. Finally, the final rule identifies a list of entities that are ineligible to become Navigators or Non-Navigator Assistance Personnel. Although the Navigator training portion of the final rule generally does not apply to state-based exchanges, the final rule does encourage state-based exchanges to adopt training programs similar to those established by the final rule. 
 
The final rule provides that Navigators and non-Navigator assistants in federally-facilitated and partnership exchanges must be certified including: receiving training regarding qualified health plan options and all insurance affordability programs provided by a state; passing a certification exam and receive continuing education; and becoming certified or re-certified annually.  The final rule also identifies certain entities that are ineligible to become Navigators or nonNavigator assistants because of inherent conflicts of interest. The precluded entities include health or stop-loss insurers (including their subsidiaries or associations). Other entities, while not precluded from becoming Navigators, will be required to disclose potential conflicts of interest. These entities include:  companies offering lines of insurance outside health and stoploss; those with employment relationships with an insurer within the last five years; and those whose spouse or domestic partner has an employment relationship with an insurer, stop-loss insurer or affiliate.
 
Finally, the final rule provides that federally facilitated and partnership exchanges, as well as state-based exchanges receiving federal establishment funds, must provide culturally and linguistically appropriate assistance services and ensure access for disabled persons. This requirement includes providing access to these services without cost.