Ensuring you’re insured

Meet the navigators of NH’s Health Market Connect

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently renewed the Covid public health emergency for another 90 days. For those currently enrolled in Medicaid, the extension secures uninterrupted health care coverage through at least Jan. 11. When the emergency declaration ends, however, some may discover that they no longer meet the eligibility requirements for Medicaid. Health Market Connect is a community-based organization that oversees a federally funded program created to provide no-cost health insurance assistance to New Hampshire residents. HMC president Keith Ballingal talked about how HMC is working to ensure that residents are prepared for how their health care coverage may change once Covid emergency waivers and flexibilities are no longer in effect.

What is Health Market Connect?

We’re a solely New Hampshire-based organization that helps citizens of the state enroll in the Marketplace and Medicaid insurances. We’re funded by a grant from the federal government. We have 11 people on the team — we’re known as Navigators — and our goal is to do outreach and to do those enrollments. The team is situated in the unique areas of the state of New Hampshire — so, like, North Country and Monadnock and Seacoast regions — to make sure they understand the unique pieces of those communities.

What does the health insurance assistance that HMC provides look like?

We get an understanding of who they are. If they qualify [for Medicaid or Marketplace], we’ll help them to apply … and to understand the insurance companies they’ll be placed with and how they work. Sometimes there’s also [a need for a] follow-up when the system can’t quite confirm a person’s income — maybe there was a change in the household — and anytime there’s follow-up documentation, we can help the consumer with that as well, for both Medicaid and Marketplace.

Why is it important that HMC is community-based?

In one sense, my team does what healthcare.gov does over the computer or over the phone — we put somebody into insurance — but the team is also community-focused, which means they’ll be in a library or in a local store; they’ll be in those places so that, if somebody really wants to have that face-to-face interaction, they can have that. It’s also our job to know how different places here in New Hampshire work together.

How will the end of the public health emergency affect health coverage, and who will be affected?

A good majority of people on Medicaid. Because of the public health emergency, no one can lose Medicaid, so [people haven’t made] as much of an effort to make sure their information is up to date with Medicaid. … The state has sent out what they call “pink letters” — pink letters in the mail to get the attention of everybody who needs to make sure their information is up to date. … [Qualifying for] Medicaid and Marketplace depends on the number of people in the household and the income. [Consumers with] lower incomes will [qualify for] Medicaid. … Anybody who truly should have Medicaid, who qualifies, needs to make sure their information is up to date so they don’t lose it.

What concerns or confusion have people expressed about that?

The concern from a number of people is that, because they got the pink letter, maybe they’re going to lose their coverage very soon. We need to alleviate that [concern] and say, ‘Listen, we’ll help you get your information in, but because the public health emergency is continuing, you are not, under any circumstances, going to lose coverage yet.’ … I also want to make sure it’s known that there’s an insurance program for everybody. A lot of times, we have people say, ‘Oh, I won’t qualify for [Medicaid or the Marketplace],’ but the reality is there’s an answer for everyone. If somebody gets stuck, it’s just a matter of reaching out, and we’ll be glad to give [their case] a second look to make sure they understand that if they didn’t qualify for one thing, that just means there’s a different solution for them.

Will changes in health coverage brought about by the end of the public health emergency result in people having to change doctors or medications?

Potentially. If there’s a household that’s making a little more income [and wouldn’t] qualify for Medicaid, they’re going to go from Medicaid into the Marketplace. Medicaid has three particular insurance companies, and the Marketplace has three different insurance companies, so in those cases, we want to make sure that as they make that change … they’ll be placed for coverage that will work for them depending on the doctors they need to see … and that the medications they need to take are still covered, hopefully at a reasonable cost.

Are we any closer to knowing when the public health emergency will end?

We always know when it’s going to end — until they move [the end date] again. … We’ve been getting ready in earnest since the summer … to try to make sure we’re ready for those people who have Medicaid but no longer qualify for it.

Featured photo: Keith Ballingal. Courtesy photo.

News & Notes 22/10/27

Marketplace open enrollment

The open enrollment period for the Healthcare.gov Marketplace, during which New Hampshire residents can purchase or change their Affordable Care Act individual health coverage for 2023, begins on Nov. 1 and will run through Jan. 15, 2023. The Marketplace provides affordable health insurance options to residents who don’t have access to health insurance through a job, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program or another qualifying form of health coverage. Applications can be submitted online, over the phone, on paper, through a certified enrollment partner website or through an agent or broker. Coverage can start as soon as Jan. 1 for those who enroll by Dec. 15. Visit healthcare.gov/quick-guide/one-page-guide-to-the-marketplace to learn more about how to enroll and to download a checklist of information to have ready for the application process.

Tracking relief funds

The New Hampshire Department of Education has launched a new dashboard web page allowing the public to see how Covid relief funds are being spent on education in New Hampshire. According to a press release, New Hampshire has received about $650 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary Relief Fund to support education during the pandemic. The transparent, interactive dashboard, called iGrant, includes data on how those funds are used, including allocations, spending details, paid reimbursements by school districts and top activities where dollars are being spent by schools. “Covid relief funds have been instrumental in helping New Hampshire and other states with their educational needs as they look ahead,” Jessica Lescarbeau, NHED’s administrator of Covid education programs, said in the release. “This new web page is a tremendous resource for the public to be able to explore how schools are allocating these funds to jumpstart and strengthen recovery efforts.” Visit education.nh.gov for a link to the iGrant dashboard.

Drug Take Back Day

The DEA’s bi-annual National Drug Take Back Day takes place on Saturday, Oct. 29. New Hampshire town and city police departments will host collection sites throughout the state from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., where citizens are encouraged to bring their unwanted, unused or expired prescription medications to be safely discarded. Visit dea.gov/takebackday for a collection site locator to find a collection site near you.

Supporting folklife and traditional arts

The New Hampshire State Council for the Arts has announced the recipients of its 2023 Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grants and Folklife and Traditional Arts project grants, totaling more than $60,000 in funding. According to a press release, the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grants were awarded to eight master traditional artists in the state to host one-on-one apprenticeships with qualified apprentices. The Folklife and Traditional Arts project grants, which support new and ongoing projects in the state focused on folklife and traditional arts, were awarded to the American Independence Museum in Exeter, the Franco-American Centre in Manchester, the Hopkinton Historical Society, Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner and the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter. Visit nh.gov/nharts.

Academic performance data

The New Hampshire Department of Education has released comprehensive statewide assessment data for the 2021-2022 school year. According to a press release, the data shows that New Hampshire students’ academic performance levels have improved for the first time since the pandemic started, but remain slightly lower than they were pre-pandemic in 2019. To view academic performance data for a particular school district, academic subject, grade level or student demographic, use NHED’s iPlatform portal at education.nh.gov/who-we-are/division-of-educator-and-analytic-resources/iplatform.

Seven to save

The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance announced its 2022 Seven to Save list during an event at the historic Belknap Mill in Laconia on Oct. 18. According to a press release, the list highlights vulnerable historic resources, landmarks and properties in the state that are in need of new or revived uses and transformative investments before they can become viable community assets again. One local property that made the list is the historic Bean Tavern in Raymond. The tavern started hosting Raymond town meetings in 1764 and is believed to have been abandoned in the years following the Civil War. The building’s immediate needs include a new roof and tree removal. Other listees include the Flying Yankee, a 1935 stainless steel train currently homed in Lincoln; St. John’s Methodist Church in Jefferson, which dates back to 1868; Hill Center Church, an 1800 meetinghouse in Hill; Stone School, a school in Newington opened in 1920 and vacant since 2003; the Old Carroll County Courthouse in Ossipee, built in 1839. The seventh listee is New Hampshire’s preservation trades workforce. “Our state’s timber frames, slate roofs, wood windows, and stone walls cannot fix themselves and there’s a real shortage of skilled craftspeople who can do this level of specialized work. “Our state’s timber frames, slate roofs, wood windows, and stone walls cannot fix themselves and there’s a real shortage of skilled craftspeople who can do this level of specialized work,” the 2022 Seven to Save flyer states. Visit nhpreservation.org/seven-to-save to learn more about the listees and how you can support historic preservation efforts in New Hampshire.

The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire has announced the appointment of a new state director. According to a press release, Rachel Rouillard will lead the state’s The Nature Conservancy team, headquartered in Concord, which includes 29 staff members and 20 trustees. Rouillard previously served as the director of conservation strategy for the organization, a role in which she worked to advance conservation, restoration and climate adaptation priorities to protect land and water for people in the state.

New Hampshire Humanities hosts a free public program, “Stop Scrolling! Journalism, Objectivity, and the Future of News,” on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at the Rex Theatre in Manchester (23 Amherst St.). According to a press release, speakers will include former Concord Monitor editor Mike Pride and New Hampshire Public Radio senior news editor Daniela Allee, with discussion moderated by Dr. Kimberly Lauffer of Keene State College. The program will explore the future of journalism and how readers can navigate news content and use information responsibly. Register to attend in person or sign up to access the livestream at nhhumanities.org.

Nashua High School South (36 Riverside St., Nashua) welcomes high school juniors and seniors from southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts to the annual Nashua Regional College Fair on Monday, Nov. 7, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. According to a press release, representatives from more than 100 colleges and universities will be set up in the school’s gymnasium to talk with prospective students and parents. Visit nashua.edu for the list of participating institutions.

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