Two non-profit groups will receive federal grants totaling more than $500,000 under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, for assistance they will provide signing Maine residents up for health insurance.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), Western Maine Community Action (WMCA) and Fishing Partnership Health Plan (FPHP) are anticipated to receive, respectively, grants worth $475,000 and $66,846.
WMCA is a Wilton-based 501(c)3 non-profit “community agency.” According to CMS, it is the lead for a “state-wide consortium of eight community action agencies, collectively referred to as the WMCA Community Action Navigator Consortium.” According to its 2011 tax filings, the organization took in more than $8.8 million from September of 2011 to August of 2012, $8.3 million of which came from government contracts.
FPHP is a Massachusetts-based health insurance company. According to CMS, it is a “health plan developed that provides subsidized coverage to uninsured commercial fisherman, many of whom operate as small business owners or employees.”
“FPHP, in collaboration with the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, will undertake a series of community health navigation activities, including: outreach; social marketing; distribution of material describing the program, the Affordable Care Act, and the health insurance enrollment process.”
The grants are part of a $67 million effort on behalf of HHS to help people sign up for health insurance. The grants range from almost $5.9 million provided to United Way of Tarrant County in Texas to $44,938 for the Ohio-based Clermont Recovery Center, Inc.
According to Department of Health Human Services (HHS), “Navigators are trained to provide unbiased information in a culturally competent manner to consumers about health insurance, the new Health Insurance Marketplaces, qualified health plans, and public programs including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”
In other words, navigators exist the shepherd people into government-run health insurance exchanges and medical welfare programs.
The final rule describing the role of navigators was issued on July 12, more than 3 years after President Barack Obama signed his controversial health care overhaul into law. Under that final rule, traditional insurance agents are barred from being trained as navigators and navigators must not be affiliated with the insurance industry. Also, navigators are limited in the topics they can address with individuals seeking assistance. Permissible subjects include health care exchanges, tax implications, eligibility for premium tax credits, and cost-sharing reductions.
States that, unlike Maine, have chosen to operate their own exchanges have the opportunity to establish more rigorous requirements for navigators. For example, navigators must complete only 30 hours of training in states with federally-created exchanges, whereas a state like Maryland, which will be operating its own exchange, can (and does) require at least 120 hours of training.
The navigator provisions of Obamacare are one of the less well-known aspects of the healthcare law. Many critics of the law believe the creation of navigators was simply a way to funnel taxpayer money into left-leaning non-profit organizations.
CNS News reported Friday that abortion provider Planned Parenthood is also a navigator and will be provided with grants totaling $655,192. The federal government has not said whether Planned Parenthood’s Maine branch will be receiving funding, although Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is slated to receive $145,161.
Many health insurance watchers were surprised that the Maine People’s Alliance and Consumers for Affordable Care – two non-profits dedicated to bringing about a government-run, single-payor health care system – were not on the list. However, it is entirely possible that CMS will name more navigators in the future.
Maine Wire Reporter