NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The waiting room at the Eric B. Chandler Health Center on Thursday was crowded with wheezing moms, sneezing dads and kids with the sniffles.

As soon as they are feeling better, Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. wants them to sign up for health insurance during the open enrollment season.

Pallone (D-6) held a press conference at the health center on George Street to urge people to sign up for health insurance.

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He was joined by local health care advocates who provided information on signing up for health care coverage for 2020.

The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Open Enrollment season began on Nov. 1, and residents can sign up for health insurance at healthcare.gov for the upcoming year through Dec. 1, 2019. Video of the event is available here.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, New Jerseyans have better health insurance coverage and health care today than they did before it became law," Pallone said. "I encourage everyone to check out their options and sign up to ensure they’re covered for the upcoming year. The enrollment process is fast and simple, and many will qualify for premium assistance. 

"Last year, eight in 10 New Jersey residents purchasing plans in the marketplace received a tax subsidy to lower the cost of their monthly premiums. Plans and prices can change every year, so it’s important everyone review their options to make sure they sign up for the plan that’s right for them. Free help is available to help individuals to walk through their options and enroll in their plan of choice. I’d like to thank everyone who joined us today.”

Pallone was a key leader in authoring and passing the ACA. Since it became law, more than 20 million Americans nationwide have gained access to health insurance through the ACA. In 2019, 255,246 New Jersey residents purchased their health insurance through Healthcare.gov and the majority of them qualified for subsidies to help bring down the cost of their premiums.

There is no magic elixir to get everyone enrolled, however. That's why Pallone was joined by health care advocates such as Kim Guadagno, the former Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey.

Guadagno is now the CEO of Fulfill, formerly The Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean counties. Fulfill is a state navigator agency and its trained health care experts can help people in its service area find insurance that meets their needs.

"Our assistance is free of charge," Guadagno said. "Just email us at health@fulfillnj.org. Nobody should have to choose between paying medical bills or putting food on the table. We are here to help."

Warren E. Moore, President & CEO, Children’s Specialized Hospital and Senior Vice President, Pediatric Services, RWJBarnabas Health, said that enrolling and getting insurance is important parents and children. Both benefit from wellness checkups and preventative medicine.

"Health insurance is critically important in ensuring these children have access to the necessary medical interventions and services needed to reach their full potential," Moore said. "Without this essential resource, our families would not be able to focus their full attention on their child’s care as they would be faced with concerns about financial distress."

The paperwork might seem daunting and there's a bit of trepidation that leads to procrastination, said Robin Stockton, Navigator Exchange Director at the Trenton-based Center for Family Services.

"We're here to help make enrollment an easy process either in person or by phone,” said  Stockton. “Post-enrollment, we’re here to help any time of year for questions about keeping coverage, changing coverage, and making any necessary updates. Statewide telephonic assistance staffed by certified navigators is available to all New Jersey residents Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.- 7 p.m. The hotline number is 877-962-8448 (877-9-NAVIG8).”