Rural Health News

Field navigators are trained to help people understand the basics of health insurance

“What in the world is a field navigator?” This is a question my family and friends asked me in October 2013, and I still get this question from people in my life and from those I encounter on a weekly basis. “Oh, you help people get insurance,” they say. Well, yes that’s part of what I do. However, there’s so much more.

Across the United States there are individuals called “assisters.” Community Action of Nebraska (CAN) applied for and received a federal grant that was disbursed to its agencies to employ assisters called “navigators.” I am employed with Northeast Nebraska Community Action Partnership, Inc. (NENCAP), and use the title “field navigator” in the work I do across Northeast Nebraska.

More than 2 million Americans are unable to access health insurance

Meet Blair Nelson. She recently went to the doctor for a physical and was forced to pay out of pocket, which took away money she had already allocated for other household bills.

Blair is a student, works part-time, and is one of more than 2.6 million American adults who are unable to access health insurance because she falls into the coverage gap. She makes too much income to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to be eligible for the tax credits that make private health insurance affordable.

In support of expanding Medicaid

In my work, l meet people who are unable to obtain health insurance on a regular basis. Due to lack of coverage, needed health care services are routinely delayed or denied in ways that significantly impact patient outcomes.

Such gaps in care are not only a threat to quality of life for thousands of individual Nebraskans, but also prevent our healthcare system from improving, and hurt our state’s economy.

Tell your U.S. House Representative to cosponsor the Save Rural Hospitals Act

76 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. According to the National Rural Health Association, about one-third of U.S. rural hospitals are at risk of closure due to financial distress. Much of this financial distress in linked to lowered Medicare payments due to sequestration and bad debt from unreimbursed care, which result in about 35 percent of Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) facing negative operating margins.

Mapping the Coverage Gap

There was much discussion last spring in Nebraska Legislature about whether we should find a way to help people in our state who fall into the health coverage gap to finally afford health insurance. Unfortunately, our state leaders again failed to capitalize on a solution to this ongoing problem.

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