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Insurance ‘Navigators’ Gear Up For Second Enrollment Season

Dara Taylor of Community Catalyst.
Durrie Bouscaren
St. Louis Public Radio

At a YMCA in North St. Louis, Nancy Kelley of the Missouri Foundation for Health coached about 50 navigators on how to encourage people to purchase health insurance this year.

“In some ways, we got the easy people last year. Maybe they were motivated, maybe they had some knowledge about the marketplace. So we need to get creative,” Kelley told the crowd.

152,335 people bought health insurance on the federal exchange last year, according to the Cover Missouri Coalition. The organization’s goal is to bring the amount of uninsured Missourians below 5 percent in five years.

Low Turnout for Some Demographics

Four groups that had a disproportionately low turnout on the federal exchange were Latinos, African Americans, rural residents and the LGBTQ community. All four will be targeted by the Coalition during their outreach efforts this year.

Emily LaCour serves as an insurance navigator at the International Institute of St. Louis, which provides services for immigrants, refugees and new citizens. She says she worked with people in the St. Louis Latino community who had concerns over buying coverage on the federal exchange.

“I think there’s a lot of misinformation about who’s eligible. Especially with families who have mixed statuses, they might feel intimidated about coming to the Marketplace, because they don’t want anyone to get in trouble if they don’t have legal status,” LaCour said.

“A parent who might be undocumented, they are allowed to come and apply on the Marketplace for their family members. We really want everyone to know that none of that information is reported, we won’t even ask them what their status is.”

This enrollment season, Kris Reinertson will be an insurance navigator for the St. Louis Effort for AIDS. He says that among the LGBTQ community, a big concern is finding a coverage network that supports some of the care needed during a gender transition, sometimes called a sex change.

“They need to find a doctor who’s accepting of who they are. It can be a hard process for some,” Reinertson said.  

Some May Lose Coverage After Data Errors  

Furthermore, at the end of the month, as many as 1,700 Missourians may lose the health coverage they bought last year due to data matching problems regarding their citizenship or immigration status.

CMS says 4,900 Missouri residents were warned of data discrepancies on their file and were asked for additional paperwork in August. More than 3,000 cases were resolved.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, about 115,000 people nationwide will no longer have coverage as of September 30th. Florida and Texas had the highest numbers of cases.

LaCour from the International Institute of St. Louis says it’s unclear what the impact will be in St. Louis.

“I had clients come again that still had the discrepancies, even if we resubmitted the documentation, so I’m worried that some people didn’t realize they didn’t have to send more documentation in,” LaCour said.

“I’m kind of waiting to see if we’re going to have a wave of people coming in with termination notices, but so far I haven’t heard of anybody.”

LaCour says the largest groups her agency served last year were immigrants and refugees from Bosnia, Vietnam, Nepal, Bhutan, Mexico and South America.

A spokesperson for CMS says people whose coverage is terminated on September 30th may be eligible for a special enrollment period if they submit the additional paperwork after the deadline.  

The Missouri Foundation for Health is a donor to St. Louis Public Radio.