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New $1.8M program trains vets to help Obamacare applicants

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Veterans are being hired and trained to help New Jerseyans enroll in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act through a new program funded by a $1.8 million grant from the Princeton-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The New Jersey Hospital Association and RWJF's New Jersey Health Initiatives today are announcing plans to hire and train 25 veterans as "certified application counselors," who will be deployed at hospitals and other sites across the state to help New Jerseyans explore their health insurance coverage options under the ACA.

"Because veterans offer a unique set of skills, discipline and leadership abilities developed during their years in the military, they are ideal candidates to fill the role of CACs," said Aline Holmes, a registered nurse and director of the NJHA Institute for Quality and Patient Safety said in a statement. Holmes served in the U.S. Navy Nursing Corps during the Vietnam war.

The New Jersey Hospital Association will hire, train and employ the veterans. These counselors will then be able to sign up individuals on paper, over the phone or online for health plans being sold on the new Health Insurance Marketplace (LINK: healthcare.gov), as well as for Medicaid and NJ FamilyCare, which are government health plans.

The new funding is being announced at a press conference this afternoon at the Robert Wood Johnson Fitness and Wellness Center in Hamilton.

The NJHA expects the new program "will help address two pressing issues: veteran unemployment and applying for health insurance."

U.S. Army veteran Jim Logan of Mount Ephraim said in an accompanying press release "the process of enrolling can seem daunting […] and that's what we're there for, to guide them through the process." Logan was unemployed before being hired under the new program.

The grant has a one-year term, followed by exit interviews by NJHA with the CACs to measure their job satisfaction and new workplace skills.

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Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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