MERIDEN — The state’s health insurance exchange recently launched a free program to help individuals become licensed insurance brokers with the goal of reducing the uninsured rate and addressing health disparities.
An extensive study revealed significant disparities in health care in the state, according to Tammy Hendricks, director of health equity & outreach for Access Health CT, the state’s insurance marketplace. Her department was created to address the issue.
“This program is to provide opportunities for members in underserved communities, but really it is designed to address health disparities at its core,” Hendricks said.
Hendricks explained anyone 18 years or over with a high school diploma can apply to receive the training regardless of their experience. .
The academy will initially train 100 brokers. Some of the classes, which start June 1, will be in person in the greater Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport areas. There is also a mentorship aspect to the program.
For Hendricks, creating awareness is also important.
“The Broker academy program is great, but what I would like most of all is for...minorities, to really pay attention to what’s happening healthwise in our communities,” she said.What’s happening locally?
Thirteen percent of Meriden adults have no health insurance, according to a 2021 equity profile published by the New Haven-based non-profit Data Haven, with Black and Latino residents disproportionatley impacted.
“Due to differences in workplace benefits, income, and eligibility factors, Black and especially Latino people are less likely to have health insurance than white people,” according to the profile.
Statewide, nearly 20% of Latinos and nearly 10% of Black residents lack health insurance. Local voices
Mark Kosnoff, executive director of United Action CT, said he’ s always in favor of initiatives focused on reducing health disparities. United Action CT — an interfaith, multi-racial, multi-lingual organization — fosters initiatives for social justice, according to its website.
“As much as I am in favor of this plan, the state and our nation still needs to address the high cost of healthcare,” Kosnoff said. “I fear that despite these new brokers many people in underserved communities will still be unable to afford health insurance.”
Meriden Deputy Mayor Michael Cardona, also a member of the City Council, said he is “definitely in favor” of efforts aimed at reducing health disparities and the number of uninsured in the state.
“I think that should be a priority at the federal and state levels of government,” Cardona said. “We’ll need to keep a close eye on the data moving forward to see whether this program fulfills its goals.”
Marie Yardis, access to care director for Community Health Center Inc., said the organization’s certified application counselors under Access Health cannot advise patients on which insurance plan to choose, only educate them on the options.
“We rely on brokers to provide support for our patients on decision-making because we are limited in this area,” Yardis said. “Having additional brokers would certainly support our efforts in getting people enrolled...”
David Broder, a broker with Has Insurance Solutions in Meriden, said more brokers are needed to help people navigate “the deep and confusing waters” of health insurance.
“I think having more brokers would enable more people to have access to the right type of health insurance,” he said.
The Broker Academy application is available online at AccessHealthCT.com. Those without computer access, can visit one of the Access Health CT Navigator sites for more information and to apply.
The sites are at Project Access New Haven, 63 York St., New Haven, and Community Renewal Team, 300 Market St, Hartford.