New Health Insurance Navigator Joins MLA

In October the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) welcomed its new health insurance Navigator, Bridget Thornton. Thornton, 30, comes to the MLA from the Massachusetts Chapter of the ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) Association, where she was the care services coordinator. Born in Connecticut, Thornton and her family moved when she was a youngster to Long Island in Casco Bay, which she considers her home.

Thornton found her way into the world of health insurance through her studies in sociology. She graduated in 2009 from Wheaton College where she majored in modern American history and minored in sociology. While in college, she was an intern at Learning Works, an afterschool and summer program for children ages 8 to 14. “I loved it. I really loved helping people,” Thornton said.

She then went on to graduate school at the University of New England, completing her degree in social work in 2012. “Social work is a broad field. I studied policy, human behavior, substance abuse,” Thornton said. After graduation she took a position at Maine Medical Center in Portland working with specific patients, such as those suffering from stroke or homelessness, to plan for their successful discharge. “It was an eye-opener, that’s for sure. These were complex cases. I worked there for two years, before and after the Affordable Care Act came in. It was interesting to see the transition from the point of view of the hospital,” Thornton said.

In 2015 she moved to Boston to begin her position with the ALS Association. “I had a case load of about 120 people and my territory extended to New Bedford and the Cape. I did home visits and assisted patients with Medicare applications, which was a huge issue for these patients. I also was part of the clinical social work team at Beth Israel Hospital,” Thornton said. Working with patients and also dealing with the complexities of the federal Medicare system taught Thornton the value of patience and a sense of humor. “Sometimes you just have to laugh or you will cry. Ridiculous things happen but you just have to deal with them,” she said.

As a Long Island resident (now living in Portland), Thornton has friends and neighbors who are lobstermen. It was through their conversations that she first learned about the MLA. With her experience in health insurance and the medical environment and her familiarity with Maine’s largest fishing industry, Thornton promises to be a great addition to the MLA staff!