…Until the health coverage marketplaces under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act open for enrollment.

Today’s news discusses the federal health law’s Navigator programs – individuals and organizations commissioned to educate the public on the federal health law’s insurance plans sold through each state’s online health insurance marketplace.

“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 statement Thursday.

Navigators will provide assistance on the phone and in person to help people understand the health law’s new benefits, including evaluating health plans for sale on the marketplaces, also known as exchanges. They have to balance explaining what’s offered without expressly telling people which policy to choose.

Because Congress only authorizes funding for Navigator Programs in state-run health insurance marketplaces, the Obama administration just awarded $67 million to the 34 states with federally-facilitated marketplaces to promote outreach and enrollment efforts.

The largest navigator grants went largely to groups in states with the highest uninsured rates. Among the biggest grants were:

  • $5.9 million, United Way of Metropolitan Tarrant County, Texas
  • $4.2 million, University of South Florida in Tampa.
  • $2.2 million, Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation in Atlanta
  • $2.0 million, North Carolina Community Care Networks
  • $2.0 million, Ohio Association of Foodbanks
  • $1.3 million, Michigan Consumers for Healthcare

North Carolina does rank  7th among states regarding the number of uninsured citizens, but the state ranks 16th in the nation based upon the percentage of the population that does not have health coverage – right above the national average.  Other state organizations that have received educational outreach grants include:

-Randolph Hospital

-Mountain Projects, Inc.

-Alcohol/Drug Council of North Carolina (Project Jumpstart)