The health insurance exchange, part of federal health care reform, goes live Oct. 1, allowing Michigan consumers to purchase what the Obama administration has said will be affordable health insurance.
Under the federal law, nearly everyone will have to carry health insurance or face tax penalties. The Michigan exchange will include as many as 14 plans.
But while many consumers will be able to find policies easily on the exchange, others might face obstacles — a language barrier, a physical or visual disability, a lack of computer skills, or a lack of understanding of insurance basics — said Don Hazaert, director of Michigan Consumers for Healthcare.
Consumers for Healthcare, one of the major advocates of the Affordable Care Act in Michigan, will receive more than $1.3 million, the largest sum of money in Michigan from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
CMS announced today $67 million in funds that were promised to the states to hire and train “navigators” who would work with community groups to help people enroll in the exchange.
In addition to the funds for Michigan Consumers for Healthcare, grants were awarded to Linden-based Community Bridges Management, which administers public health plans in Wayne and Oakland counties ($896,366); Dearborn-based Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services ($276,593), and Detroit-based American Indian Health & Family Services of Southeastern Michigan. ($49,583.50).
Some groups most likely would use the federal funds to pay for new positions, but others suggested other models.
Hazaert said Michigan Consumers will work with its 220 nonprofit partners throughout the state, using the money to reimburse them $25 for each client the nonprofit signed up in the exchange.
“It’s an incentive to help make this part of their mission — getting people enrolled” in the exchange, Hazaert said.
Community Bridges will use the money, in part, to hire part- and full-time navigators to work in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Genesee counties, said Ibraham Ahmed, president and CEO.
The idea is to reach as many people as possible, including those who may have never been approached about insurance.
“There will even be people out seeking the homeless,” he said.