U.S. announces grant for health exchange helpers

Philadelphia Inquirer/Curtis Skinner
Friday, August 16, 2013

The federal government announced $67 million in awards Thursday to more than 100 groups nationwide, including 10 in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, to help people enroll in the health insurance marketplaces scheduled to begin operation Oct. 1.

The grants are going to groups in states that will not run their own exchanges - the online sites where consumers can compare and enroll in health plans - but will instead partner with the federal government.

"Navigators will be among the many resources available to help consumers understand their coverage options in the marketplace," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a news release. She also pointed to the federal help website, wwww.healthcare.gov, and a 24-hour call center, 1-800-318-2596.

The 10 organizations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey will share $4.73 million.

Resources for Human Development Inc. (RHD), a Philadelphia-based human-services nonprofit, received the largest grant, $953,176. It plans to use the money to hire exchange navigators, do outreach, and launch a media campaign.

"Overall, we said we're going to reach 576,000 people, so it's a pretty ambitious goal," said Laura Line, corporate assistant director for health care at RHD. Its efforts will be focused on 10 counties, including the immediate five-county region of Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, and Delaware, and it will work with partners ranging from the Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania to grocery stores. One of RHD's six federally qualified health clinics in the state was recently opened in a ShopRite store in Hunting Park.

"Everybody who's agreed to partner with us is going to bring their partners in, too. It's sort of a 'so on and so on' approach," Line said.

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