Amid Federal Cuts, NJ Ramps Up Its Own Health Care Enrollment Effort

Joanna Gagis, NJTV News | November 1, 2019 | Health Care
Governor announces $1.1 million in new grants; state plans to target hard-to-reach populations and says first phase of the exchange will have limitations

With the open enrollment period for health insurance coverage commencing on Friday, the state is taking matters into its own hands to educate and assist the public in navigating the first year of its two-phase rollout plan.

Gov. Phil Murphy addressed a room of health care navigators earlier this week to explain how federal rollbacks to the health care exchange led New Jersey to create a state-operated exchange. He also announced $1.1 million in new money in Navigator grants, on top of the $1.5 million from the Department of Banking and Insurance to bolster the state’s Get Covered NJ awareness campaign; $500,000 more will be awarded in the coming day to community organizations.

Also present at the event was Maura Collinsgru of New Jersey Citizen Action, whose organization is looking to enroll people at the ground level. Her focus is on targeting hard-to-reach populations.

“It’s engaging immigrant organizations and others for more vulnerable populations who have heard a lot of information that’s not correct, who have been scared off from enrolling, when in fact there are many options for them to enroll,” said Collinsgru. “So empowering those organizations to put staff on the street, to do outreach directly by phone is really important.”

Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride explained some of the limitations the state faces in the first phase of the exchange.

“While we’ve taken back control of the exchange, we still have to adhere to rules from the federal government, such as the six-week window,” said Caride. “So the enrollment period is from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. One of the things that we’re hoping that by 2021 we’ll be able to expand the enrollment period. We haven’t discussed the period of time, but we’re looking to expand that enrollment period.”

In this first phase of the rollout, people can log onto GetCovered.NJ.gov to see what their options are and what the savings could be, but they’ll then have to go onto the federal exchange Healthcare.gov to make their selection.

By this time next year, New Jersey’s exchange will be fully up and running, and people will be able to stay on the state’s site to sign up.