One woman seeks to help Manchester’s Nepali community navigate health insurance options

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Roshani Giri at Himalaya Market on Oct. 12, 2022. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

MANCHESTER, NH – Each Wednesday, Roshani Giri sets up at a table at the front of Himalaya Market on Elm Street. But Giri isn’t just sitting (or standing) next to a table: she’s on a mission.

Giri is one of 10 navigators working for Health Market Connect (HMC) NH, an organization that describes itself as running a federally-funded program to provide no-cost, unbiased Healthcare Marketplace health insurance assistance to New Hampshire residents. While she will help anyone, Giri’s specific focus is an underserved community when it comes to healthcare coverage: Manchester’s Nepali community.

A native of Nepal, Giri migrated to the United States in 2018 to rejoin her husband and quickly discovered the complexities of America’s healthcare insurance system as well as how much more significant it is compared to her native culture.

“In Nepal, (health insurance) is not part of our culture. We have a tendency that we don’t go to hospitals unless we fall very sick,” she said.

With help from local experts like HMCNH President Keith Ballingall of and other organizations like Amoskeag Health, eventually Giri got the help that she needed, but she kept on thinking about how other Nepali immigrants such as herself were going through the same issue.

Ballingall, thought the same thing, and given Giri’s experience with non-government organizations and colleges in Nepal as well as her first-hand experience navigating U.S. healthcare on her own, he offered her a job last September as a navigator.

“She is instrumental for a number of reasons,” said Ballingall of Giri. “She is active in the city of Manchester as a whole and more than willing to help, and not just in (the Nepali) community.”

Beyond Himalaya Market, Giri also regularly reaches out to local residents at several other small markets and organizations in the area, meeting with people such as Indu Singh, who now works at Himalaya Market. A fellow Nepali, Singh says Giri taught her and other immigrants why paying monthly premiums was a better choice in case of severe illness versus certain discount programs that may help alleviate costs for some procedures, but not cover others.

“In our country, no one has health insurance,” said Singh. “Like (Giri) said, we only go to the hospital when we’re sick, there are no physicals or monthly checkups or anything. So we go to the hospital and then get huge bills and we have to pay out of pocket. So, [Nepalese people in Manchester] don’t know about health insurance.”

Giri believes that she’s made progress toward addressing that ignorance, helping Singh and others sign up for healthcare coverage. While immigrants face other obstacles when it comes to healthcare coverage, such as the inability to signup for Medicaid until they’ve been a U.S. resident for at least five years, Giri believes the primary obstacle is when immigrants have a limited knowledge of English. Although she speaks Nepali and Hindi in addition to English, and will even go as far as to use translation software to help clients who speak other languages, Giri says that fear along with the lack of knowledge toward why health insurance is important is still a barrier.

“Most of us, we don’t speak that good English and we get scared speaking English in front of Americans,” she said. “Most of the people I get, they go backward because of that and we lack education when it comes to health insurance.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to recede, underserved communities such as Manchester’s Nepali community will likely face new challenges, such as expected rollbacks on Medicare eligibility for those who obtained it during the pandemic. However, Giri says she’s ready.

“For this open enrollment season, I’ll be doing as much outreach as I can,” she said.

More information on HMCNH can be found at hmcnh.com or by calling 603-309-2021.


 

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About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.