Current Weather
The Spy FM

Strange Bedfellows Among Groups Helping Insurance Buyers

Filed by KOSU News in Health.
August 16, 2013

If you thought the doldrums of August meant a lower boil for controversy over the rollout of the federal health law, you’re mostly right.

But the federal government released a list of grants going to groups that will help people figure out how to buy health insurance on the marketplaces, or exchanges, that open for business in October. Some of the names incensed commenters over at Forbes.com, where Bruce Japsen wrote about the grants.

It’s not a lot of money — $67 million all told — spread among more than 100 different groups that have stepped up to help people navigate the new health insurance options, which are kind of complicated.

What’s the idea? “A network of volunteers on the ground in every state — health care providers, business leaders, faith leaders, community groups, advocates, and local elected officials — can help spread the word and encourage their neighbors to get enrolled,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement describing the money for these insurance navigators.

The grants range from nearly $5.9 million going to United Way of Tarrant County in Texas to $21,750 for the social services arm of the Catholic Archdiocese of Mobile, Ala.

Starting next year, most Americans will have to show they’ve got health insurance. If they don’t have coverage already, they’ll have to buy it — or pay a penalty. There are subsidies to help those who qualify.

But a surprising number of people don’t know the first thing about insurance, as a recent study found. And these exchanges could be a challenge even for people who understand the basics.

So helpers only make sense, right? Well, not to everyone. “Critics see navigators as potential competitors to insurance brokers, and say they should be subject to more rigorous screening before they can work with consumers,” Kaiser Health News’ Phil Galewitz wrote. In Nebraska, insurance brokers pushed for a state law, signed by the governor in June, that regulates navigators and prohibits them from endorsing particular plans.

So who’s getting some of the money? Some groups you might not have expected.

The Fishing Partnership Health Plan of Massachusetts got nearly $67,000 to work with the Maine Lobstermen’s Association to help uninsured commercial fishermen in Maine figure things out.

Another recipient is Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, a nonprofit operating in Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma. A $214,000 grant will support navigators in Iowa.

Then there’s Ascension Health, a Catholic hospital chain operating in 22 states. Ascension will get about $203,000 for navigators in Alabama, plus about $166,000 in Kansas. [Copyright 2013 NPR]

Leave a Reply

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

Listen Live Now!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

10AM to 11PM On Point

On Point

On Point unites distinct and provocative voices with passionate discussion as it confronts the stories that are at the center of what is important in the world today. Leaving no perspective unchallenged, On Point digs past the surface and into the core of a subject, exposing each of its real world implications.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center