Community navigators work to sign up Houston area’s uninsured

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by Rekha Muddaraj / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on September 18, 2013 at 7:09 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 18 at 7:20 PM

HOUSTON—When the health insurance marketplace opens Oct. 1st, it will be the community navigators who will be working to sign up the uninsured.

Almost 200 people attended a training workshop Tuesday at the West Gray Multi-Service Center.

Many of them are employees at city, county, and state agencies, but many more are volunteers.

“Knowing at the end of the day they were able to help somebody – that’s why people are in this line of work,” said Gaye Humphrey.

Humphrey is a Health Insurance Specialist for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and said Houston is one of the top ten cities across the United States, with the highest number of uninsured residents.

Cas Perez is with the Brazos Valley Community Action Agency.

He says the biggest challenge in his county will be reaching out to the Hispanic community.

“They are very reserved and they don’t seek out as much help as they should,” said Perez. ”But we have staff available that are bilingual that can assist them with it.”

Fernando Davila owns a small tow-truck business in Houston. Last month, he had a heart attack and spent two days in the hospital.

He doesn’t have health insurance.

“The bill I got was $14,000,” he said.

Davila said he’s been looking for health insurance for months, and wasn’t aware of the marketplace.

Jenness Sherrell, with Change Happens, the organization that received federal money to service Harris, Galveston, Brazoria, Montgomery, and Fort Bend counties, believes outreach and education is critical in these last few days.

“Getting the information out, making sure people understand exactly what the program is, what a premium is, what a co-pay is,” Sherrell said. ”Because some people have never had insurance before.”

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