WBUR – Lowell Community Health Center doing “critical work” to help the community renew insurance

At the community health center in downtown Lowell, patient navigator Abbas
Tanner made a phone call — one of dozens that he and his colleagues would make
that day.

On the line was a 29-year-old woman from Leominster who needed help renewing
her insurance from MassHealth, the state Medicaid program. Tanner asked a
series of questions about her family, her income and her immigration status,
typing her answers on his laptop.

“Has any information changed in regards to your tax filing
status?” Tanner asked the woman. An interpreter, Maria Cruz,
translated into Portuguese. After about 15 minutes, they renewed the patient’s
insurance under MassHealth.

This work of guiding people through the sometimes tedious task of
obtaining health coverage is critical right now. It’s part of a sweeping effort
across Massachusetts to help low-income families and individuals maintain
access to health care during a turbulent time for MassHealth.

During the COVID health emergency, federal rules allowed Medicaid recipients
in Massachusetts and other states to keep their benefits indefinitely,
even if their income increased. But the grace period has ended.
Now, people have to prove they qualify.

If for some reason they don’t receive their renewal notice, or don’t
respond fast enough, they could lose health coverage altogether.

The burden is especially high for immigrants and communities of color who
don’t speak English, or who lack easy access to technology.

“The patients and community members that tend to fall through the
cracks are those that are most vulnerable,” said Brenda Rodriguez,
chief strategy and finance officer at Lowell Community Health Center.
“They may not have a computer or working cell phone to follow through and
fill out a form online, or they may have other barriers.”

Click here to listen to the full story on WBUR: https://www.wbur.org/news/2023/07/05/masshealth-enrollment-campaign-medicaid