Navigators provide health insurance road map

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— A navigation system guides us to our travel destination when there is uncertainty as to how to get there. Without a navigation system, we might find ourselves, lost, confused or may never find our destination. Maryland Health Connection (MHC) is offering a similar service for Marylanders who need assistance navigating through health insurance options.

Launched in October 2013, The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (MHBE) launched the Connector Program in Maryland, in accordance with the Affordable Care Act and Maryland law, to provide target populations with in-person education, eligibility and enrollment assistance. Through Certified Navigators, the program provides outreach and enrollment mechanisms to help consumers learn about, apply for and enroll in appropriate health insurance products, including Medicaid, the Maryland Children’s Health Program, and subsidized and non-subsidized qualified health plans.

Connector entities are responsible for organizing all partners and services across the region. Chatman, LLC is a connector entity with the Maryland Health Connection, and is contracted to hire, train and supervise 10 certified navigators who enroll consumers in Baltimore and Anne Arundel County.

Alease T. Kouadio is a Certified Navigator for Chatman, LLC, a health policy consultancy specializing in community outreach and advocacy around all health topics.

“We are licensed to help people out in the field, answer website questions, and resolve any problems or conflicts they might have trying to figure out which health plan they should take,” she said. “We are trying to reach the hard to reach. Those individuals include people who won’t get on the computer, never had insurance, are homeless, or just aren’t Internet savvy.”

According to Maryland Health Connection, nearly 250,000 Marylanders are expected to become newly insured as a result of expanded Medicaid eligibility and the creation of subsidized health insurance products offered through Maryland Health Connection.

Kouadio said that’s were Certified Navigators come in. Kouadio works out of The Stanton Community Center, a newly renovated historic city building located at 92 West Washington Street in Annapolis, Maryland, which provides the community with a plethora of services.

“There are people in the community who will not call, or will not go on a website, so they need people to come to them. I meet people at churches, libraries, soup kitchens, missions, and other places. The Maryland Health Connection is the database where people can go to the website, create an account, login, and get qualified for a health plan. They can download an application, call, or fill out and mail an application. Or, they can see a Certified Navigator like myself who can do it all for them.”

She added, “The Stanton Center also has many programs. Right now, the dental center has a one-year waiting list. A large part of our population needs the services that Certified Navigators are offering right now.”

According to Kouadio, in order to become a Certified Navigator, individuals are fingerprinted, and must undergo training in Maryland law, cultural competency, mental health, and other areas.

“I have been working out of the Stanton Center since October 1, which was the beginning of the Open Enrollment season,” she said. “This is a free service and is available to anyone who needs it. Sometimes, people get confused. It’s good to talk to a live person who can explain to them how it all works.

There’s so much information out there, that it’s confusing to people. On a daily basis, I generally assist one to six people each day. Some have questions while others need help enrolling. It runs the gamut.”

Navigators provide referrals to appropriate agencies, including the Attorney General’s Health Education and Advocacy Unit (HEAU).

“I took the job to be able to help people,” she said. “I have worked in healthcare for the past three years, and enjoy the opportunity to help people to understand how it all works. Some people don’t know what a deductible is, or a copayment because they may not have had a plan that includes that terminology.”

She added, “We do outreach as well as enrollment. I walk Clay Street and hand out flyers letting people know where we are and who we are. People have come to know me in the community so it’s fun and rewarding. We want people to know we’re here to help. We are located all around Baltimore and in Anne Arundel County.”

Kouadio can be reached at 443-889-7924. She can assist you or put you in contact with another one of Chapman LLC’s Certified Navigators assigned to your area. For more information about Maryland Health Connection, visit marylandhealthconnection.gov.