Wener explained that Martinez might be eligible for Medicaid or perhaps financial aid to help pay for private insurance. Martinez listened intently. Yes, she nodded, she wanted to set up a meeting to get details. Esta bien. She wrote down her name and cellphone number for Wener. Jueves, she said. En la mañana. Thursday morning for the next appointment.
Wener, 26, is one of more than 300 “navigators” and other consumer guides working across Maryland to find people who are uninsured, help them figure out their options and, if they are ready, sign them up online or with a paper application. Specially trained to provide in-person help, these navigators are considered critical to the outreach and enrollment effort.
Community Clinic Inc., a private nonprofit group that serves about 50,000 low-income residents at seven locations in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, deployed six consumer guides to its facilities Tuesday. They weren’t sure what to expect; they had been told during their training that there were likely to be technology glitches.
Sure enough, early Tuesday morning, navigator Apoorva Srivastawa, 24, ran into a big one when she opened her laptop and tried to log on to the Maryland Web site at the Silver Spring clinic. The portal was down. It wouldn’t be available until noon. And throughout the rest of the day, the high volume of traffic made it virtually impossible for navigators to work online, according to Wendy Korrick, CCI’s outreach and enrollment director.
The Silver Spring clinic is usually relatively quiet on Tuesday mornings; fewer patients are scheduled for that day because clinic directors hold an administrative meeting. But at the nonprofit’s other locations in Takoma Park, Gaithersburg and Greenbelt, waiting rooms were full of patients eager to learn more about their health insurance options. Without access to the Web site, navigators started using paper applications. By late afternoon, at least seven applications in total had been started from those three locations, Korrick said. At least a dozen more people had scheduled a return trip to complete the process, navigators said.
The response has been “pretty significant,” Korrick said. “People are eager to learn. A lot of people have scheduled an appointment.”
Martinez was one of them. Wener told her to bring a picture ID and, if possible, proof of income and residency. The Rockville resident can buy insurance from Balducci’s, but it costs $70 a week, Martinez said — “It’s expensive.”