NC groups will help residents get subsidized health insurance

jmurawski@newsobserver.comAugust 15, 2013 

Four North Carolina groups received $3 million in federal grants Thursday to train “navigators” who will assist residents with insurance subsidies, premiums and other issues under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The grants, which include $2.3 million for two organizations in the Triangle, are part of $67 million the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded to 105 organizations nationwide to help with outreach and enrollment under the federal health law.

The biggest grant in North Carolina, nearly $2 million, was awarded to N.C. Community Care Networks, a Raleigh-based statewide consortium of community organizations that work with Medicaid patients. The organization plans to train 40 navigators, spokesman Paul Mahoney said.

Alcohol/Drug Council of North Carolina, based in Durham, received a grant of $324,798. It plans to use its grant to train eight workers who provide drug and alcohol treatment referrals, and also to hire and train college students to work as navigators, said Mary Powell, director of operations.

Residents can begin signing up for subsidized insurance in October, when enrollment for the federal program begins.

More than a million North Carolina residents who are either uninsured or pay out of pocket for individual policies could sign up for subsidized insurance.

Subsidies, averaging $5,000 per family, will be available to individuals with annual incomes of as much as $45,960 a year, and to families of four with household incomes of as much as $94,200.

Coverage starts in January, along with penalties for those who are required to sign up but fail to do so. The penalties will be taken out of tax refunds. The law exempts people from mandatory coverage who are at the bottom of the federal poverty scale.

Navigators typically will require at least 30 hours of training and annual certifications. In addition to navigators, those who will assist the public in navigating the new federal insurance requirement will be volunteers, insurance company officials as well as insurance agents.

The other two groups that received navigator grants were Mountain Projects in Sylva and Randolph Hospital in Asheboro.

In July, the federal government awarded $4.1 million in a previous round of grants to 32 North Carolina community health organizations to train assistants for outreach and enrollment. Local clinics in that effort will be Wake Health Services in Raleigh, Lincoln Community Health Center in Durham, and Piedmont Health Services in Carrboro.

More information about the Affordable Care Act is available at www.HealthCare.gov.

Murawski: 919-829-8932

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