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UA Center for Rural Health Awarded $2 Million Grant to Help Arizonans Sign-Up For Health Insurance in 2016

The Center for Rural Health at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, will help people in rural Arizona select health insurance during open enrollment.

The Center for Rural Health is training students from the UA Colleges of Public Health, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy to be Certified Application Counselors through the program Students Helping Arizona Register Everyone (SHARE).  From left, Eric Lander, Lorraine Ramirez and Alyssa Padilla, CRN special projects coordinator. (Photo: Paul Akmajian.)

The Center for Rural Health is training students from the UA Colleges of Public Health, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy to be Certified Application Counselors through the program Students Helping Arizona Register Everyone (SHARE). From left, Eric Lander, Lorraine Ramirez and Alyssa Padilla, CRN special projects coordinator. (Photo: Paul Akmajian.)

Dr. Dan Derksen

Dr. Dan Derksen

With Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment set to begin Nov. 1, the Center for Rural Health (CRH) at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health is gearing up to help Arizona residents understand the coverage options and financial assistance available at HealthCare.gov.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded the CRH a three-year, $2 million Marketplace Navigator grant. The CRH will focus on enrollment and re-enrollment of hard-to-reach uninsured people living in rural and underserved communities in Arizona.

The CRH is among 100 organizations in 34 states to receive part of $67 million in Navigator grants from the CMS. The funding will support outreach efforts to connect people with local help as they seek to understand the coverage options and financial assistance available at HealthCare.gov.

“The mission of the center is to improve the health and wellness of Arizona’s rural and vulnerable populations. The Navigator grant will help us provide education and information for hard-to-reach consumers in rural areas about their choices in health insurance coverage,” said Dan Derksen, MD, director of the UA Center for Rural Health and professor of public policy at the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. “We are honored to receive this CMS notice of award, and are eager to get started on this important work.”

“There are a lot of choices when it comes to signing up for health insurance and we want to help make sure consumers feel confident that they’ve picked the right plan,” said Kevin Counihan, CEO of the Health Insurance Marketplaces. “In-person assistance from Navigators and assisters has proven to be an incredibly important avenue for consumers to get the right coverage. I’m pleased that Navigators and assisters will be available in even more geographic areas this year.”

Arizona marketplace open enrollment and plan renewal begins Nov. 1 and remains open through Jan. 31, 2016. Navigators serve as in-person resources in their communities for consumers needing additional assistance shopping for, and enrolling in, health insurance through Arizona’s Marketplace.

The CRH will place Navigators during the open enrollment period in regional sites to assist 75,000 uninsured Arizonans with health insurance enrollment and re-enrollment for 25,000 individuals over the next three years. The priority is to help people in hard-to-reach rural areas with historically low participation rates in the Federally Facilitated Marketplace among Latino, American Indian, disabled and special populations.

In addition, the CRH is training students from the UA Colleges of Public Health, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy in Tucson and Phoenix, to be Certified Application Counselors through the program Students Helping Arizona Register Everyone (SHARE).  Working with community partners, students will help consumers enroll or renew enrollment in the Arizona health insurance marketplace at events held across Pima and Maricopa Counties. SHARE is a collaboration with the Regional Center for Border Health, Inc. and the Western Region Public Health Training Center.

“The SHARE program allows students to work with community organizations to help individuals enroll in health insurance,” said Alyssa Padilla, special projects coordinator at the CRH and an alumna of the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health. “We educate students about the basics and then they use this knowledge during community events. The training will also add to their Internships and clinical rotation experience. It’s a win-win.”

Eric Lander and Jaymus Ryan Lee, both second year students at the UA College of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix respectively, founded SHARE.

“While health professions students learn the basic and clinical sciences of medicine extensively, they learn little about the health-care system and the Affordable Care Act,” said Lander.

To close this educational gap, increase insurance enrollment and reduce health disparities, Lander and Lee approached Dr. Derksen at the CRH with the idea to train students as Certified Application Counselors.

For information about health insurance enrollment and events, or to schedule an appointment with a Navigator, visit www.coveraz.org/connector.  For information about the CRH Navigator program, please contact Martha Monroy at (520) 626-8036.

For a complete list of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Navigator awardees, or more information about Navigators and other Marketplace resources, please visit: https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Programs-and-Initiatives/Health-Insurance-Marketplaces/assistance.html

About Students Helping Arizona Register Everyone (SHARE)

The SHARE program at the University of Arizona Center for Rural Health is designed for healthcare and public health professions students to train as a Certified Application Counselor. Throughout the certificate year, SHARE will participate in health insurance marketplace enrollment events, outreach fairs and office hours. In the process, students learn to navigate the healthcare system, be a leader for health and impact the lives of others. Training is provided by the Regional Center for Border Health, Inc. and the Western Region Public Health Training Center.

The University of Arizona