Payne, Pascrell, Sires Decry Lack of Necessary Federal Resources For ACA Enrollment in Northern New Jersey

Sep 3, 2015 Issues: Health Care, Local Issues

JERSEY CITY, NJ – Today, Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) was joined by Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09) and Albio Sires (NJ-08) in urging U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell to shift federal resources to help residents in northern New Jersey enroll in health coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This week HHS announced $67 million in three year navigator grants to 100 organizations located in 34 states, but provided no resources to Passaic and Hudson counties, which are two of the counties most in need of enrollment assistance in New Jersey. Bergen County was awarded only one navigator location. ‎

“While we have no doubt that the organizations selected will be effective in helping to enroll the residents of our state, we are seriously concerned about the division of navigator resources in northern New Jersey and request that you take steps to ensure that resources are shared more equitably,” the lawmakers wrote.  “We are requesting information on how HHS plans to enroll residents of northern New Jersey, particularly given the lower rate of enrollment; and we ask that you consider shifting navigator resources to counties not currently covered throughout the three year period.”

The full text of the letter is as follows:

September 3, 2015

The Honorable Sylvia Mathews Burwell

Secretary

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

200 Independence Avenue S.W.

Washington, D.C., 20201

Dear Secretary Burwell,

We are writing in regard to the recent announcement of navigator grant recipients. While we have no doubt that the organizations selected will be effective in helping to enroll the residents of our state, we are seriously concerned about the division of navigator resources in northern New Jersey and request that you take steps to ensure that resources are shared more equitably.

The navigator grant recipients announced earlier this week will provide no coverage in Passaic and Hudson Counties, with only one location in Bergen County. Additionally, while the grant announcement indicates that there will be navigator coverage in Union County at one of the grantee’s clinic sites, the organization’s website does not list a location in Union County. This will be the second year in a row that there has been no navigator coverage in Hudson County and, possibly, Union County. There was also no coverage in Bergen County last year, which is our state’s most populous county. Additionally, Hudson and Passaic Counties are home to the second and third largest cities in the state, Jersey City and Paterson. Both cities have large minority populations, high poverty rates, lower-than-average median household incomes, and more than a majority of residents speak a language other than English at home. Furthermore, because these most recent Navigator grants were awarded for a three year cycle it will enshrine a lack of enrollment resources for Northern New Jersey for the foreseeable future.

The State of New Jersey has enrolled 49.4 percent of its eligible residents in coverage under the ACA. Of our state’s 21 counties, only six have a lower percentage of their residents enrolled than the state-wide average. However, three of them, Hudson, Passaic, and, possibly, Union, will have no navigator coverage during this upcoming Open Enrollment period, and likely the following two because the grants were awarded for three years.  To date, 41.5 percent (Hudson), 44.2 percent (Passaic), and 47.8 percent (Union) of eligible residents have enrolled in coverage.

We all strongly support the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but in order for the law to achieve its goal of universal health coverage, we need to ensure that Americans have the resources they need to enroll, and this includes navigators. In the first two years, we were able to enroll the millions of Americans who wanted health insurance, but couldn’t get it because of unfair practices and discrimination that locked them out of the market. But, as you know, it only becomes more challenging from here. There are millions of Americans eligible for coverage under the ACA who have never enrolled, and we need to spend the next and subsequent Open Enrollment periods seeking them out. But this can only be done if resources are present and integrated into their communities.

We are requesting information on how HHS plans to enroll residents of northern New Jersey, particularly given the lower rate of enrollment; and we ask that you consider shifting navigator resources to counties not currently covered throughout the three year period. We look forward to working with you to ensure that the residents of northern New Jersey have the resources they need to enroll in quality, affordable coverage through the ACA. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,

 

Bill Pascrell, Jr.

Member of Congress

 

Albio Sires

Member of Congress

 

Donald Payne, Jr.

Member of Congress

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