Helping New Jersey's Uninsured Find Benefits

Many people without medical insurance lost it through a job loss, while others work hard but are not offered medical benefits by their employer.

This is what Cover the Uninsured Week is all about in 2008. The week-long observance, April 27 - May 3, is intended to raise awareness of the plight of the uninsured.

"Whatever the reason, finding health insurance can be difficult," said James Wallace, senior vice-president of advocacy and institutional advancement with the Lourdes Health System. "But, there are ways to find it if you know your starting point."

1. Did you recently lose a job that provided health insurance? Under a federal law called the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), you have the right to maintain your health coverage, but you are responsible for paying the entire premium. Your former employer is required to tell you about your COBRA rights. Learn more about your rights to continue your coverage under COBRA by checking out the U.S. Department of Labor's Frequently Asked Questions about COBRA Continuation Coverage. You can also visit the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance.

2. Did you recently lose your position because of jobs moving overseas due to increased imports? A federal law called the Trade Adjustment Assistance Reform Act may pay 65 percent of the cost of your health insurance for up to three years. To learn more about this option, contact the Health Coverage Tax Credit Customer Contact Center.

3. Did you take early retirement? "The same law that protects health coverage for those affected by trade policy may help you as well," said Mr. Wallace.

4. Are you simply unable to afford health insurance? There are programs that provide health insurance coverage to people who can't afford to buy it on their own, depending on income and assets. In New Jersey, the main programs are Medicaid and NJ Family Care. To learn more, check out Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. To learn more about children's health coverage, visit Insure Kids Now.

5. Do you have a serious medical condition or a disablity? Again, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will guide you through your options under those circumstances. In addition, protection and advocacy programs provide legal assistance and other services under all federal and state law to all with disabilities.

6. Are you looking for health insurance but just can't get it through your job? You may have to start looking for an individual health insurance policy in the private market. Learn your rights by checking out the Consumer Guides for Getting and Keeping Health Insurance.

7. Still can't find health insurance? Many local community health clinics may be able to help you get low-cost primary health care. Click here to find one near you.

People with no coverage also can get their necessary medications if they meet the financial requirements. Many pharmaceutical companies provide free medications to people who do not have prescription drug coverage. To learn more, visit RX Assist.

TO LEARN MORE ...

Tune in to WPHT 1210-AM Philadelphia, "The Big Talker," for The Doctor Show, on Sunday, April 27, when our guest will be Jeffrey Tieman, Director of Covering a Nation, a Catholic Health Association initiative designed to create momentum for real, sustainable change in our health care delivery and financial systems.

Last reviewed: April 2008