COLUMBIA, SC — The Cooperative Ministry in Columbia is one of three groups awarded grants Thursday to help guide South Carolinians through the process of signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday announced $67 million in grants nationally for organizations it refers to as navigators. These groups will train personnel to provide information to consumers about the new Health Insurance Marketplaces through the Affordable Care Act along with other government health programs.
Combine with earlier grants, the federal government is spending about $4.5 million to educate consumers in South Carolina about the insurance changes while Gov. Nikki Haley and fellow Republicans in the state continue to try to stop the regulations. Legislative bills have been filed calling for nullification of the law and for making it illegal to use state funds to pay for implementation of the law.
In South Carolina, three groups will share $1.95 million in grant funds announced Thursday. The Cooperative Ministry was awarded $508,313 for an effort focused on eight counties in the Midlands. DECO Recovery Management, a Maryland-based company, got $1.2 million and will partner with the S.C. Benefits Bank statewide. And the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce received $234,100 to focus in the Lowcountry.
Starting in 2014, everyone will be required to have health insurance or face a fine under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. About 725,000 South Carolinians are uninsured and eligible for the Health Insurance Marketplace. Many more who are insured under private policies might find better deals under the exchanges.
The navigators are one component of a multi-pronged effort to help people sign up.
Federally qualified health centers in the state – including Eau Claire Cooperative Health Centers in Columbia – were awarded a $2.4 million grant to hire and train workers specifically to help their patients and residents of their surrounding communities navigate the process.
The federal HHS agency also is backing a Champions for Coverage program that will recruit and train a much larger force of volunteer Certified Application Counselors through church, fraternal and community groups.