By Michael Hill
Lucie Roca has a small office but a big job.
“We help the communities, especially the Hispanic community, get insurance through Obamacare,” said the SRA Health Insurance Marketplace counselor.
An average of an hour per appointment or walk-in at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck. In some cases, not just navigating the labyrinth documentation process but knocking down barriers to folks who are uninsured, too.
“I think a lot of people are still misled. They think that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are two different things. I think they may have a bad taste for Obamacare and when they come in and realize that they can get tax credits and that their whole family can get insurance at an affordable rate, they are able to come in and then they’re excited about the program,” Roca said.
Fear of affordability, a daunting technological process and language challenges are the intimidating barriers cited for nearly a half million New Jerseyans — many of them North Jersey Latinos — not applying for coverage under the ACA. Holy Name says that’s why it launched the free, one-on-one sign-up sessions.
“It’s a great resource, asset, opportunity for people to get health care and they need to take advantage of this resource,” said Dr. Alexander Hesquijarosa, primary care physician for Familia y Salud.
Holy Name uses a flyer and another program it says that’s succeeded in enrolling Asians for coverage to reach out to the uninsured. Sen. Bob Menendez says the time to apply is now.
“We’ve focused on certain groups, but we want everybody to apply at the end of the day,” he said.
Sen. Menendez says nationwide 18 million Americans have signed up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, an act some have promised on the campaign trail to do away with.
“If you’re going to repeal it, then you’re going to have to replace it. Three years later since the law was passed I haven’t seen how the law would be replaced in a way that would create the same coverage that looks for the same quality outcomes, that deals away with all of these discriminatory efforts that existed under the law previously,” he said.
Politics aside, Dr. Hesquijarosa says enrolling is about better health.
“It’s a shame a lot of times I get patients with no health care, they just put it on the back burner and then all of a sudden they come in with an illness that’s advanced. And a lot of what we’re trying to do is preventive medicine,” he said.
That starts with signing up with Lucie Roca.
One by one she’s tackling the issue of people being uninsured. “Yes, I wish we could do more,” she said.
The deadline to sign up for 2016 is Jan. 31.