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Care act funds given
Two local health agencies aided

Monday, July 22, 2013

By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -

Two area organizations will receive federal funds to hire staff in preparation for the launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace as part of the Affordable Care Act, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness is set to receive $76,633, the release said. Piedmont Access to Health Services (PATHS), which is headquartered in Chatham and has a branch in Martinsville, is slated to receive $114,946, the release added.

Barbara Jackman, executive director of Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness, said that organization has not yet decided how many additional employees will be hired, but it is considering one new full-time employee and two part-time employees.

The goal, she said, is to have these employees out in the community with laptops to make it as convenient as possible for eligible candidates to sign up for the Health Insurance Marketplace.

The Health Insurance Marketplace will become available Oct. 1 and can be found online at www.healthcare.gov. It is designed to connect people to health insurance plans within their budget before key parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act take effect in 2014.

While Jackman acknowledged that the specific details of the marketplace insurance plans have not been made clear yet, she said that the three main criteria that navigators will use to help place people into the proper plan are their level of health, their income and their preference of providers.

At one end of the spectrum, she said, a program may have a small copay but not cover as many health expenses, which could work well for a reasonably healthy person on a fixed income. On the other end of the spectrum, a plan might have a higher premium but cover more expenses, which might be more affordable for someone required to take a large number of medications.

“The coalition already has several people on board that would be able to help” enroll people in the Health Insurance Marketplace, Jackman said, as the organization has been helping people enroll online with Medicaid and Medicare Part D for the past several years.

Jackman said she believes that the marketplace’s online registration model is likely to be the wave of the future.

However, “we do realize there are a lot of people who may not have access to a computer or aren’t sure” how to go about enrolling online, she said, which is why the organization wants to make the process as convenient and painless as possible.

William Crumpton, chief operating officer of PATHS, said the federal funding is intended to “support our organization hiring additional staff to help people enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplace.”

Once the marketplace debuts Oct. 1, Crumpton said, “There will be staff in our offices that will be available to help patients currently served by PATHS, as well as individuals in the community who may never see PATHS for anything else” other than assistance enrolling in the marketplace.

The federal funding, Crumpton said, will go toward hiring 2.5 (full-time equivalent employees who will work as “navigators” at PATHS’ locations to help educate people and enroll them in the marketplace. They also will visit non-profit partner organizations and civic groups to educate them on the health care program.

“I want to make it clear that there are tons of unanswered questions we still have ourselves” regarding the specifics of the Health Insurance Marketplace, Crumpton said, as the full details of the marketplace health plans have not yet been released.

 

 
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