Tonawanda News

Local News

January 26, 2014

Program helps with insurance

'Navigators' assisting Niagarans' search for affordable health insurance


Tonawanda News — Navigators are based throughout the county; sites include Niagara Falls Memorial, Lewiston Town Hall, Wheatfield Community Center, United Way of Greater Niagara on Inducon Drive West in Sanborn, the Doris W. Jones Family Resource Center in the Falls, the YWCA and Dale Association locations in North Tonawanda.

Joy Richter is the Lockport-based navigator, working typically at the Dale Association on Ontario Street. She usually handles people from Lockport and eastern Niagara County, but they come from all over.

Navigators have met with folks from Newfane and Youngstown, Buffalo and Clarence, Depew and Lancaster, Medina and Middleport, LoFaso said.

Word of mouth has certainly been a major referral source for the Memorial navigators, both Richter and LoFaso said, especially by those who have already worked with a navigator.

“I think we have such a strong focus on customer service and getting back to people,” Richter said. “I meet people who come with people who met with Christin; because they had such a good experience with her, they’re coming to meet with me and vice-versa. We’re really focused on helping the individual.”

A typical appointment takes 60 to 90 minutes. The hope is the application is started, finished and a plan chosen in one appointment, Richter said. But it’s different for each applicant, because each situation is different. 

And the session doesn’t end until the person’s health plan covers everything it needs to and it’s accepted by their healthcare providers, Richter said. Issues with coverage are rare, so far, she said.

Most of those who come to the navigators don’t have a computer or just need a little help with the application. Almost all are actively looking for insurance and are ready to go, Richter said.

And there is a significant lack of health coverage out there. According to a study by Univera, about 6.8 percent of people in Western New York are uninsured. In Niagara County, that number rises to 7.6 percent. The study was based on information through Dec. 31, 2012.

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