Health Report: United Way expands Healthcare Navigator program to Fairbanks

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 4:09 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - United Way of Anchorage has expanded its Healthcare Navigator program to Fairbanks.

According to Anne Triest, Healthcare Navigator for United Way, there are now two representatives located in Fairbanks to help those without health insurance sign up.

“My colleague Jennifer Willeford and I are the two healthcare navigators here in Fairbanks,” Triest explained. “We actually work for United Way of Anchorage, which has been doing this work for quite a number of years, since the beginning of the Affordable Care Act, and they are really excited to be able to expand into other areas of the state this year and have help on the ground in other areas.

Triest continued, “Jennifer and I are here in Fairbanks to be able to help people enroll in health insurance through healthcare.gov. So that includes Medicaid and then also the other insurance plans that people can qualify for reduced prices for with premium tax credits.”

With open enrollment for health insurance beginning soon, United Way is looking to help those without health insurance find the best option for them.

“Right now, we are coming up on the open enrollment period which starts November 1st, and goes through January 15th of next year,” Triest elaborated, “and open enrollment is really important because it’s the one time of year that anybody, just about anybody who is uninsured can apply for health insurance on healthcare.gov. At other times of the year, you’re going to have to have special events happen in your life in order to be able to sign up. So, we really want people to know that right now is your chance to go and get health insurance if you don’t have it.”

Triest went on to say, “What we can do is help people sign up for health insurance, because the process isn’t necessarily intuitive for everyone. We can also help answer people’s questions about health insurance in general and help understand how to use your insurance. So if you get signed up for health insurance and then you get a bill that you don’t understand, we can be there to help with that too.”

With Healthcare Navigators now located physically in Fairbanks, they are able to offer a variety of methods to assist those looking to enroll.

“We can help people at in person appointments, we can also do virtual appointments such as through Zoom, and we can help people over the phone as well, whatever is going to work for people,” Triest said. “We are here to serve the Fairbanks community. The best way to get in touch with us is by calling 211 - That’s a general line for everyone in Alaska to use to get in touch with all kinds of services. And if you call 211 and tell them you’re in Fairbanks and you’re looking for health insurance, they will put you in touch with us and we will help you walk through that process of getting insurance and get you all the help you need.”

And this upcoming enrollment period is looking to be the most affordable yet, according to Triest.

“Another thing that we want people to know is this year in this open enrollment period where anyone can apply, health insurance is more affordable and easier to access than it ever has been, especially due to the American Rescue Plan Act from last year,” she said. “That means that the premiums for most people are going to be lower than ever. So even if someone has gone and looked into healthcare on healthcare.gov before, it’s really worth it to go and look again and see what you may qualify for - and we’re happy to help people with that too, just to look and see what health insurance is going to cost, because the answer may surprise you. Four out of five people are going to qualify for health insurance that is less than ten dollars a month.”

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