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Health insurance marketplace topic of roundtable in Portsmouth

Union Leader Correspondent

October 23. 2017 9:21PM
Jayne Navarro, who works at Manchester Community Health Center, spoke about the language barriers they face when enrolling residents for health care during a roundtable discussion in Portmouth Monday morning. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

PORTSMOUTH — Community leaders who enroll people in the health insurance marketplace discussed their challenges and opportunities during a roundtable meeting in Portsmouth Monday morning.

Language barriers, lack of documentation, and paranoia about the Affordable Care Act were all cited as hurdles in New Hampshire.

Jayne Navarro, a patient navigator at Manchester Community Health Center, said they work in nine different languages to help people understand the complexities of signing up for health insurance for themselves and their families.

“Most of our employees speak Spanish,” Navarro said. “Now, we have a teleprompter in our waiting room to try and do a little bit more of that outreach.”

Susan Turner, a certified enrollment counselor at Families First Health & Support Center in Portsmouth, said she faces challenges when dealing with the homeless population. She recalled an instance where officials were asking for a copy of a lease as proof of residency.

“They’re homeless; there is no lease,” Turner said.

The women participating in the roundtable discussion said that some people are nervous about participating in government programs, and don’t even want to provide their names.

They have reached out to many different sectors of their communities, including schools and the jails. A radio media campaign is planned through iHeart Radio. Postcards, email newsletters and social media help them find the people who can benefit from their guidance.

Marilyn Sullivan, a project coordinator for Bi-State Primary Care Association, which serves New Hampshire and Vermont, said they are working to recruit young adults and men between the ages of 35 and 55.

“They’re very difficult to persuade on the benefits of public insurance,” Sullivan said of the male demographic.

Tess Kuenning, CEO of Bi-State Primary Care Association, said it is important for people to understand that there is a shortened enrollment period for the upcoming year. Enrollment only runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15.

Sullivan and Kuenning hope that people will reach out to their community health organizations with questions because they could potentially get better coverage at a lower cost on the marketplace.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, hosted the roundtable at Families First.

“I’m really here because, like you, I am concerned that people don’t know that open enrollment begins November 1st. It’s November 1st through December 15th, and one reason people don’t know is because, I believe, there is a deliberate effort by this administration to try and keep people from enrolling and to really, as the President says, end the Affordable Care Act. He’s pronounced it dead, which it is not. It is very much alive because Congress has refused to repeal the Affordable Care Act because the people in America understand that this is important to their futures,” Shaheen said.

Shaheen has introduced the Marketplace Certainty Act. Last week, she joined a bipartisan group of 24 senators to introduce the Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act, which is an effort to prevent projected premium spikes.

For more information on the marketplace, visit


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