Healthcare Navigators Make Sense Of Open Enrollment

NEW JERSEY – As the Affordable Care Act remains steadfast but on shaky ground, it is only a matter of days before millions of Americans need to sign up to be covered next year.

Open enrollment for marketplace healthcare is from November 1 to December 15 for health plans that start coverage January 1, 2018. Previously, open enrollment lasted for a three-month period, beginning on November 1 and lasting through January 31.

The change, according to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was made to align better with Medicare and the private market, but some states that operate their own health insurance exchanges, such as New York, have elected to extend the open enrollment period beyond the Dec. 15 cutoff.

Fulfill, formerly the Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, is offering residents of both counties some relief in what can be an overwhelming process of signing up for and choosing a health plan within the government’s healthcare marketplace.

Barbara Scholz, Director of Advocacy and Programs at Fulfill, said that one of the ways the nonprofit is fighting hunger is through affordable healthcare. Healthcare Navigators will be at various locations throughout the area during open enrollment to help guide people through the now shortened process.

Healthcare Navigators are certified by the federal government, knowledgeable about policies and terms, and can help consumers find policies that are appropriate and affordable for them.

Scholz said a navigator will log onto the marketplace website (healthcare.gov) with a consumer and walk them through the process, showing them how to set up a username and password, answer questions, and either submit the application right away, or save it for later if they need time to discuss it with family members.

“People have to consider which plans are the best for them and that’s something the Navigator can help them with as well,” said Scholz.

She said the nine navigators are also there to help with people who have disabilities or who don’t have access to a laptop or internet at home. Four of them will be able to provide assistance in Spanish.

Although open enrollment offers year-round coverage for 2018, there are also special enrollment periods – such as getting married, having a baby, losing your job or gaining citizenship – where you would not have to wait until the following November to get coverage. Fulfill offers help throughout the year for those special coverage periods as well.

Healthcare Navigators will be available at locations throughout Ocean and Monmouth counties during the open enrollment period:

  • The B.E.A.T. Center, 1769 Hooper Ave. in Toms River – Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, November 1 through December 15 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; later by appointment
  • Freehold Raceway Mall Financial Success Center in Freehold, next to Macy’s on the first floor – Every Tuesday and Wednesday, November 1 through December 15 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Attendees should bring addresses, social security numbers, employer/income information (W-2s, pay stubs, wage/tax statements) and current health/job-based insurance information.

For additional locations, dates and times, call Fulfill at 732-643-5888 or visit fulfillnj.org/get-help/#healthcare.

For more information about affordable healthcare insurance, visit healthcare.gov.

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Sara Grillo served as the Assistant News Editor/Writer at Micromedia Publications in 2017. She has lived in numerous areas within Monmouth and Ocean Counties for the past 9 years. Grillo studied Journalism and Communication Arts at Ramapo College and has held positions in Marketing, Public Relations and Sales prior to writing for Micromedia. She left in October of 2017 to pursue creative writing.