New Community recently partnered with New Jersey Citizen Action and WNYC radio station to help uninsured residents sign up for health coverage before the open enrollment deadline of February 15.
“There are still quite a few people who need coverage,” said India Hayes Larrier, Health Care Organizer at New Jersey Citizen Action, the agency that spearheaded the planning of the event.
Hosted at the headquarters of New Community at 233 West Market St. in Newark, the Open Enrollment event allowed residents to walk in and immediately receive free, in-person enrollment assistance in accessing quality health coverage that’s more affordable, thanks to the Affordable Care Act and Health Insurance Marketplace.
There is a special enrollment period open from March 15 to April 30 for those who still need to sign up for coverage. Otherwise, individuals may face a tax penalty of up to $325 or 2 percent of a household’s income. The penalties will take effect when people file their taxes for 2015.
Gene Dixon said he had put off applying for health insurance but attended the event hosted at NCC at the urging of his daughter, Mercedes. A new grandfather, Dixon said he has some health challenges and suffered a minor stroke a few months ago. He works on a part-time basis so his employer does not offer him a health plan, Dixon said.
“I knew I needed it but I was avoiding it” because of the financial cost, he said of getting health insurance. Within 25 minutes of sitting down with a navigator, Dixon had wrapped up the application process. “Now I see it’s not as bad as I thought,” he said.
Federal navigators and certified counselors—who included speakers of Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole, in addition to English—were on hand to assist residents with each step and answer questions.
Applicants like Dixon will soon receive a letter in the mail confirming their enrollment and detailing the cost of their premium, according to Adeline Jean-Baptiste, a federal navigator.
Hayes hopes that as many uninsured people as possible will enroll, ultimately resulting in fewer emergency room visits and better pre-emptive care.
Alexa Sykes, a federal navigator, says she has participated in at least 20 similar enrollment events in the last two months.
“It’s a good feeling knowing you’ve helped someone get health insurance,” Sykes said.