Funding cuts affect health care sign-up assistance

Posted at 4:30 AM, Oct 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-04 06:52:37-04

CINCINNATI -- The Freestore Foodbank has provided navigators to help people sign up for affordable health insurance, but a major funding cut means the end for that program.

Foodbanks across Ohio have been exiting the "navigator" program that has helped families sign up for insurance in the Affordable Care Act marketplace after funding was cut by 71 percent.

"Really what that means is the families that have been depending on us to help connect them to the marketplace insurance or through the Medicaid outreach, they're not going to have that adviser," Freestore Foodbank CEO Kurt Reiber said.

Certified application counselors like Angela Robinson with the Cincinnati Health Department can enroll people. She advises anyone interested to call now for an appointment, because the window from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15 is shorter this year. 

"We're really concerned that people will miss open enrollment this year," Robinson said.

The Lincoln Heights Health Center is another place people can go to sign up for health insurance. They're also expecting an increase in calls. 

Charles Woode with the Lincoln Heights Health Center said the navigator cuts will put more pressure on certified application counselors. Their health center sites have about 18,000 patients, some of whom work for small businesses that set up insurance through navigators. 

"With the elimination of the navigators, I'm not sure where the employers are going to go," Woode said.

Federal marketing for the Affordable Care Act was also cut 90 percent this year. 

The Cincinnati Health Department will enroll any qualified applicant, even if they don't live in the city. The number to call for an appointment is 513-564-2273.