July 1, 2014:
Covered California, the state’s Obamacare exchange, plans to award $16.9 million in grants to educate consumers about its Navigator program, “the next phase in the agency’s outreach, education and enrollment efforts.”
That next phase comes after some critics took issue with earlier outreach and enrollment procedures.
The exchange, run by Executive Director Peter Lee, hopes to enroll 130,700 subsidy-eligible consumers during Covered California’s second open-enrollment period, which runs Nov. 15, 2014 through Feb. 15, 2015.
The new program appears to be a response to criticism about its initial efforts. Some critics faulted it for doing a relatively poor job of reaching members of some minority groups, and for putting too many barriers in the path of counselors working with would-be enrollees.
“The key difference is that we are combining services that we had bifurcated in the first round,” in a hybird of outreach and enrollment efforts, said Larry Hicks, a Covered California spokesman. “By bundling them, putting them under one umbrella there will be better coordination.”
As many as 135 organizations could win grants. The size of grants will be based on enrolling “a predetermined number of consumers,” officials said. Organizations such as chambers of commerce, colleges and universities, faith-based organizations, counties, cities and other government entities, labor unions and nonprofits are eligible to apply, Hicks told me Wednesday morning.
Covered California signed up about 1.4 million enrollees during its first open enrollment period. It still hasn’t said exactly how many of those consumers have paid premiums and are officially enrolled, but that number is believed to be about 80 to 85 percent of the total, or close to 1.19 million people.
The grants will go to groups that help educate Californians about health insurance options on the exchange and how to obtain financial assistance to help pay for them, officials said Tuesday. The Navigator program’s activities will include telling consumers the benefits of coverage, motivating them to act, helping them compare and shop for plans, and helping them enroll.
Applications for grants are due July 28.