Need Health Insurance? Navigators and Assisters are Here to Help!

At the NJ Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association’s (NJPRA) annual conference this fall, there was an urgent plea to attend a training to become a NJ Family Care (formerly Medicaid) Application Assister, similar to Navigators.  I knew that NJ government decided to expand Medicaid. But, I didn’t really grasp who many people would be newly eligible.  By state estimates, nearly 14% (993,185) of NJ’s total population (8,821,155) are uninsured and eligible (Rutgers study, 5/13).  The concern is how to enroll 200,000 people currently eligible for state Medicaid but NOT ENROLLED. This is combined with the 100,000 newly eligible adults who will be seeking primary and behavioral health care.
We know that not all 14% will need help enrolling. But, since January 2014 we have all seen the media reports about problems with the federal website.  We have heard that there are some states doing better or worse than others (I’ll get to how NY is doing BETTER later in the blog).  So, I decided to register for the training since it seemed to be a mathematical certainty that the harder to reach populations would be left out.  Also, Assister training would be a great opportunity for me to reconnect with community providers and help people get insurance.  I like to do both.

I attended the training, and took the test to become a Certified NJ FamilyCare Application Assistor. The training class included paid and unpaid staff from area food banks, churches, community colleges, local Chambers of Commerce, county jails, methadone clinics, community mental health centers and drop-in centers.  The agencies I will do my volunteer work will be with the Community Mental Health Law Project and the Mental Health Association of Monmouth County.  Both agencies have SOAR affiliations, so it’s very cool to have this opportunity to help out in my own neighborhood.

I have learned so much more about what is going on at the community level around ACA, which is not good.  First, NJ took the cheapest option to ACA implementation which was going the Federally Facilitated Enrollment (FFE) route. As a result, NJ lags behind states like NY which chose to run their own health exchanges and prepare for ACA implementation soon after its passage.  NJ government has consistently turned away federal grants for outreach to underserved populations.  This is disappointing since so many citizens are walking around without insurance who are eligible.

Since the vast majority of PRA staff reside in the Capital Region and perform a whole heck of a lot of community service, I was planning on listing organizations which offer Navigator or In-Person Assister training.  But, NY State has created a well-oiled, statewide infrastructure which includes regional “Enrollment Networks” and “Ambassadors for Coverage”.   In your own backyard, the University at Albany-School of Social Welfare has partnered with the Community Service Society of New York in a statewide effort to inform and enroll uninsured individuals.  They employ 9 MSW graduate students as navigators to serve Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties, with several locations in each county.

New York is second to California in enrollment. With that said, NY State will still need to expand its scope of outreach to enroll the currently uninsured and underserved.  The New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth) estimates that more that 1 million uninsured New Yorkers could gain health coverage. As of February 17, 2014, 745,262 completed applications and 456,042 enrolled (see https://nystateofhealth.ny.gov/). There are undoubtedly harder to reach populations which will require more direct outreach and face-to-face support even with easier and streamlined enrollment.  It will be interesting to see whether the NY State Legislature expands its Navigator training opportunities to include training community volunteers.  If any PRA staff are aware of any policy changes in this area, please add to this blog.

I plan to update this Blog Topic with any changes to NY State’s Navigator program and how PRA staff can become more involved with healthcare enrollment in your area.

For now, here are some local resources for Navigator programs in the Capital Region:

Attached flyer, please feel free to copy and share it. For information and to make an appointment, contact telephone helpline at 442-3854 or Email email hidden; JavaScript is required. You can go to the state website and click on navigators for training information.

University at Albany-School of Social Welfare, Albany (serving Schenectady, Albany, Rensselaer, Troy (518) 442-3854. For more information, please call Bruce Stanley at (518)442-5356 or email hidden; JavaScript is required

The Pride Center, Albany- (518) 462-6138 (Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady)

Centro Civico, Albany- (518) 465-1145, Ambassadors for Coverage- education and outreach, connect to organizations that can help enroll in an insurance plan (Montgomery, Fulton, Albany, Saratoga, Schenectady, Rensselaer)

Guilderland Chamber of Commerce– Small business assistance programs- (518)456-6611 (Albany)

Small Business Development Center, University at Albany, Albany (518) 380-5077- (Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Saratoga, Washington, Hamilton, Greene, Columbia, Montgomery)

Behavioral health, Legislation    

The views expressed by the blog post author are their own and do not necessarily represent the official views of Policy Research Associates, Inc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Policy Research Associates, Inc. encourages you to share your thoughts on the blog topic. However, comments that contain profane language; malicious statements; or promote products or services will not be published.