Grant, staffing linked to needs with Obamacare

Jul. 17, 2013 @ 06:45 PM

There is good news for individuals without health insurance.

The Rural Health Group has been awarded $142,842 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help uninsured individuals obtain insurance coverage.

The Rural Health Group, with headquarters in Roanoke Rapids, operates at 11 locations in northeastern North Carolina, including clinics at 100 Parkview Drive West in Henderson and at 110 Division Street in Norlina.

Denise Belle, director of community-based outreach programs for the Rural Health Group, administers the program.

“The money will be used primarily to hire additional staff,” Belle said.

Three new full-time staff members will cover the six-county area served by the Rural Health Group to help residents obtain affordable health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program.

They will explain to individuals what their options will be in the new Health Insurance Marketplace. Enrollment for plans in that program will begin on Oct. 1 and end March 31.

Assistance will also be given to individuals in determining their eligibility for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, “insurers won’t be able to deny coverage to individuals with chronic or pre-existing conditions,” Belle said.

The staff will help those needing financial assistance.

“They will help individuals determine if they are eligible for zero- or low-cost premiums,” she said.

To give individuals more control over their health insurance options, the staff will help them get information on premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs before they make a decision to enroll.

Belle said grant funds will also be used for additional equipment, travel expenses and publicity “to inform our constituents about the Health Insurance Marketplace.”

“We will be partnering with local organizations to reach as many people as possible,” Belle said, adding that the success of the effort will depend on assistance by local organizations such as health departments, the Department of Social Services, faith-based entities and civic groups.

The award to the Rural Health Group is part of $4.1 million in grant awards to 31 health centers in North Carolina that served more than 430,000 patients last year, 52 percent of whom were uninsured.

The grant awards will be used to hire 87 additional staff statewide to help enroll uninsured North Carolina residents in new health coverage options made available by the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare.

Ten health centers are in the First Congressional District, which is represented by Congressman G.K. Butterfield. In a press release about the awards, Butterfield said, “Expanding health care coverage to uninsured Americans will require trained workers on the ground to educate people about their benefits and help them understand how the health care law will affect them and their families. This investment is essential to enrolling as many eligible Americans as possible into new health insurance plans, which will lower the cost of medical care nationwide.”

Individuals can review their options online at marketplace.cms.gov.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.