Human Services Commissioner Johnson, advocates and health care organizations address obtaining health insurance and health services during COVID-19 pandemic
Highland Park– Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services Carole Johnson today joined New Jersey Citizen Action, the Henry J. Austin Health Center and the New Jersey Association of Health Plans for a press conference addressing the health care options and protections available to New Jerseyans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans have lost jobs, income and health insurance as a result of this global health crisis, which has shuttered schools and businesses statewide.
In response to the crisis, many federal and state lawmakers requested the Trump administration open the federal health insurance marketplace, healthcare.gov, to give anyone without health insurance the opportunity to get enrolled. The administration did not agree to the request, but the Affordable Care Act does provide a special open enrollment period for those who experience life-changing events, like the loss of a job that results in the loss of health insurance, and in some circumstances the loss of income.
Workers who have recently experienced these events may qualify for coverage and have 60 days to apply for it after the events occur. They may be eligible for tax credits to purchase a Marketplace plan or an NJ Family Care plan, depending on their income. Those workers who wish to apply can go directly to healthcare.gov or connect with free in-state enrollment assistance through the providers listed on New Jersey’s portal, getcovered.nj.gov .
“The essential health care coverage that NJ FamilyCare provides is always a critical lifeline for individuals and families in need, but never more so than at this moment. We are here to help New Jerseyans who may be newly eligible get enrolled in Medicaid coverage,” said Commissioner Johnson. “And we will continue to take action and pull all available levers to support the needs of our NJ FamilyCare members at this challenging time. To find out more information, visit njfamilycare.org.”
“The Department is working with the Governor’s Office and other state agencies to respond to the pandemic and mitigate its impact on our residents, including for those who lost or will lose health coverage based on the guiding principle that health care is a right, not a privilege,” said Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride. “As part of our work, we want to ensure that New Jerseyans know that options are available through NJ FamilyCare and that coverage is available through the Marketplace for those who qualify for a special enrollment period, due to the loss of employer based coverage or other life-changing event.”
State advocates urged New Jersey residents to get online to find the health care resources they need during the pandemic.
“State residents may be unaware of coverage and financial assistance options available to them under the Affordable Care Act, as well as other steps taken by the Murphy Administration to protect residents’ access to health care services they need during this crisis,” said Maura Collinsgru, New Jersey Citizen Action Health Care Program Director.
For the state’s Medicaid enrollees, these protections have included a moratorium on termination of any current Medicaid enrollees, no cost testing and treatment for COVID-19, waiver of premiums and greater flexibility to increase the number of service providers and locations to meet the growing need for health care services due to this public health crisis.
More than 500,000 New Jerseyans lacked health insurance before the COVID-19 pandemic. But health services are available to those without health insurance though Federally Qualified Health Centers, which deliver high quality health care to all people regardless of their ability to pay. These include the uninsured as well as patients with Medicaid, NJ FamilyCare, Medicare and private health insurance.
“Federally qualified health centers, like Henry J Austin Health Center, have been serving the uninsured and underinsured as part of their mission since their creation over fifty years ago,” said Dr. Kemi Alli, CEO, Henry J. Austin Health Center. “We are here to serve all in need no matter their income or financial status. Health Centers have been proactive in transforming to provide telemedicine services, providing COVID-19 testing, diagnosis and treatment. As we have been in the past health centers will continue to be the health care home for all that need us.”
Health plans throughout New Jersey have also waived shared costs for a variety of services, and can act as a resource to New Jerseyans in need during this time.
“New Jersey’s health insurance providers have been proactive in stepping up to protect public health in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Ward Sanders, President of the New Jersey Association of Health Plans. “NJAHP’s member insurers are ensuring coverage for testing and treatment, providing access to telehealth with no cost-sharing, and taking other actions to mitigate the economic and societal impact of COVID-19. Overcoming this pandemic will require a far-reaching and coordinated response from government and the private sector. We are committed to doing our part.”
For more information consumers can access NJHELPS.org, a site that can determine if you are eligible for food assistance, cash assistance and health insurance, and where you can apply for services or learn about additional resources. NJCA has also recorded a webinar on health care coverage and protections available during the COVID-19 pandemic which is available for viewing.