Navigator Update

March 7, 2014

As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marches on, the climate of health care for the county continues to change.  Fortunately we have Stephanie.  Stephanie Morris plays an invaluable role as a Certified Marketplace Navigator, directing folks through the website in order to find coverage for the uninsured.  The people she comes into contact with every day may have never seen the benefit of health care coverage.  She opens up a new world of opportunity for these individuals.  Entering into her sixth month with us here at Health Partners, she reflects below on the status of the ACA in our community:

Everyone we have seen has been nothing but grateful; maybe not so grateful about their results, but still grateful for help through a process that has done nothing but confuse and baffle them. I must admit, even for young adults who have grown up with computers and cannot imagine a world without them, figuring out took a bit of time. Things that should be easy, such as simply moving through the site, seemed a bit off. Also, the many things that we have learned about the site were discovered only through getting someone’s determinations, and knowing through experience that they could not be right.

Wrong answers to poorly dictated questions and basic typing mishaps can completely throw results. In fact, one of the first couples who came in for help had filled out an application on their own. When reading over their options, it became obvious that their results could not possibly be right for a couple in their situation. Looking things over, it was found they answered “Yes” to a certain question about their financials. As a result, their individual incomes were both marked with the couple’s total income. After making a correction, we were finally able to find a plan they could afford, saving them from either financial strife or spending another year without health coverage.

This leads to another important part of being a Navigator; realizing there is no end point. If people are baffled enough to ask for help in the first place, they will most likely need help long after their initial appointment. Without being there to help them with any questions they may have after the fact, the initial meetings are futile. And, it is not necessarily that we know the answers to all of their questions, but we do know how to find the answers, and most importantly, become people that can be counted on for help.

Every individual that we help is a gift; giving so much more back to us than they can possibly be receiving. Thinking about this, one young family comes right to mind. While taking care of a toddler, a young woman and her husband both work 50 hours a week at their service jobs in order to keep on top of their bills. She has ongoing medical problems from when she was younger, and he, though relatively healthy, has not been able to go to a doctor for many years. After being so debilitated by her disease, the young mother decided to see a specialist for some relief. Her first appointment cost $200. On top of the upfront cost, she mentioned that she and her husband only had one vehicle so she had to borrow a car for her appointment 30 miles, refill the gas, and completely miss her work shift that day because of the doctor’s scheduling hours. At this point, the benefits did not outweigh the costs to her family, and she never returned.

Desperate, the young lady came in for help. Never having insurance in her life, her understanding of the terminology, let alone the system, was zilch. After multiple sessions, each one deliberately scheduled for an extended length of time, we were able to find this family an individual insurance plan that was not only affordable, but also had realistic coverage options. Leaving with an insurance paid-premium, receipt, a big smile and a long hug, the young lady had nothing but gratitude, saying, “Thank you,” more times and in more ways than ever before heard.

To this, there was only one appropriate response from a Navigator, “Well, that’s my job!”