NorthJersey.com

NJ Coalition Of Non-Profits Help Enroll Uninsured In New Health Coverage Despite Web Site Glitches

The Record (NorthJersey.com) — Thursday, October 31, 2013

BY LINDY WASHBURN
STAFF WRITER
The Record

A coalition of New Jersey non-profits said Wednesday that they're making headway in helping enroll the uninsured in new health coverage plans through the Affordable Care Act — despite the problems with the federal website.

Most of the uninsured expected to sign up this year will be eligible for the state's expanded Medicaid program, and can apply directly to the state, said Ray Castro of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a member of the NJ for Health Care Coalition. So they'll be able to bypass the federal website that's prevented many from signing up.

Others, who are eligible for tax subsidies available only through the federally run insurance marketplace for New Jersey, can file paper applications.

"We have not been sitting idly by waiting for fixes to the glitches in the federal rollout," said Maura Collinsgru, health policy advocate with New Jersey Citizen Action. "Our message is: New Jersey enrollment is open for business, and it is actively happening around the state."

New Jersey has an estimated 900,000 uninsured residents who will be eligible for coverage under Obamacare, as the new law is known. The open enrollment period extends through March 31. Consumers must sign up by Dec. 15 for coverage that begins on Jan. 1.

Aside from anecdotal accounts, the non-profits were unable to provide specific information about how many uninsured had successfully applied for coverage.

The state Medicaid program has seen "an uptick and a steady stream" of applicants since Oct. 1, said Collinsgru. Exact numbers are expected to be released in November.

New Jersey has more than 150 certified application counselors to help the uninsured sign up for coverage, and is training more, she said.

One assistance counselor, working an eight-hour day, can see about 16 clients a day, said Kim Tweed, of CompleteCareHealth Network, a health center that serves three southern counties. The sign-up process takes 45 minutes to an hour, once the necessary documents are assembled, she said.

During the one-on-one sessions, the applicants are told how health insurance works, she said. "They don't know they have to use insurance card, for example, or follow up or renew it or keep up with it," she said.

In the first year, about 60 percent of those who sign up for new coverage are expected to qualify for Medicaid, said Castro. The state is one of 25 to expand eligibility as of Jan. 1 to include childless adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, or roughly $15,900 for a single person and $32,500 for a family of four.

Applications for Medicaid can be completed online at www.njfamilycare.org or by calling 1-800-701-0710.

The coalition has a consumer-health helpline to answer questions and refer consumers to local enrollment assistance: 1-888-NJ GET WELL (888-654-3893).

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