$60 Million For 34 States To Boost Obamacare Enrollment

Two Planned Parenthood chapters, two United Way organizations, a food bank association and a Catholic hospital system are among 90 nonprofit groups that will receive a total of $60 million to help people sign up for health insurance, the Department of Health and Human Services announced today.

The money will help people in 34 states that rely on the federal government fully or in part for their Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges, where individuals can buy  Obamacare policies. States with their own exchanges have separate funding to help consumers get assistance.

On the phone and in person, navigators help people understand the health law’s new benefits, including evaluating health plans for sale on the marketplaces, also known as exchanges. They have to balance explaining what’s offered without expressly telling people which policy to choose.

The second year of the exchanges open enrollment runs from Nov. 15-Feb. 15. In the first year, despite the disastrous rollout last October, more than 8 million people signed up for private insurance. Enrollment in Medicaid, the state-federal insurance program for the poor, grew by more than 7 million.

Many of the organizations that won the latest grants had assisted consumers during the first Obamacare enrollment that ended in March. The total amount awarded nationally is less than the $67 million awarded last year to states using the federal exchange.

“In-person assisters have an impact on the lives of so many Americans, helping individuals and families across the country access quality, affordable health coverage,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell wrote in a statement.  “We are committed to helping Americans get covered and stay covered with in-person assistance in their own communities.”

The largest navigator grants mainly went to groups in states with the highest uninsured rates. Among the biggest grants were:

  • $4.6 million, United Way of Metropolitan Tarrant County, Texas
  • $5.4 million, University of South Florida in Tampa
  • $2.2 million, Structured Employment Economic Development Corp. in Tennessee

Planned Parenthood chapters in Montana and Iowa received grants totaling about $500,000. Ascension Health, the nation’s largest Catholic hospital system, won a $241,000 grant to help people in Kansas. The Ohio Association of Food Banks will receive a $2.1 million grant.

With nearly $222,000, Primero Health Inc. in Austin Texas plans to hire up to 20 people to provide in-person assistance to people at a dozen churches. Primero last year used volunteers to help assist people but believes it can reach more people with paid workers who can help people nights and weekend.

“This is awesome,” said Lily Vela, CEO of Primero when told they won the grant. Her group has most of its experience working with churches to provide diabetes education in Latino communities. “Many of the people we help are eligible for coverage but don’t know it,” she said.

Florida Covering Kids & Families, based at the University of South Florida, saw its federal navigator grant increase to $5.4 million from $4.2 million a year ago. The university will oversee navigators this year in all 67 Florida counties, as it’s added the heavily-populated Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties in southern part of the state.

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