$340K grant targets W.Pa. uninsured by hiring, training application counselors
By Alex Nixon
Published: Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
More help is on the way for uninsured people in Western Pennsylvania who want to sign up for medical coverage this year under the Affordable Care Act.
With less than three months to enroll in coverage, and many uninsured people unfamiliar with the law's requirements and subsidies, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded a $340,000 grant to several Pennsylvania organizations, including the Consumer Health Coalition, North Side, to hire and train certified application counselors.
The organizations, operating under a consortium called InsurePA, plan to hire six counselors and recruit 50 volunteer counselors across the state. InsurePA set a goal of providing assistance to at least 15,000 people in the state, said Alex Lehr O'Connell, the grants and development project manager for Public Health Management Corp., a Philadelphia nonprofit and lead agency for InsurePA.
“The demand for proper and neutral information (about the Affordable Care Act) is so great (that) we and many other organizations got involved as much as we could,” he said. “With these grant funds, we're really going to accelerate those efforts.”
InsurePA also established a toll-free number, 855-486-9331, to provide information and connect people with counselors.
Less than 12,000 Pennsylvanians selected plans on HealthCare.gov in October and November, the latest months for which there are data. An estimated 1.2 million people in the state are uninsured.
Federal officials have said about 1.6 million Americans signed up for coverage in December either through HealthCare.gov, the federal website that serves as the online portal for Pennsylvania and 35 other states, or on 14 individual state websites. That was more than quadruple the number for the first two months of the government's sign-up period, when technical glitches prevented many users from completing the process.
With December's surge, 2.1 million people signed up in the first three months, meaning more than twice as many will have to enroll in the second three months for the Obama administration to hit its goal of 7 million sign-ups by March 31, when the enrollment period ends.
In addition to website problems, sign-ups may have been hurt by uninsured people's previous experiences with the high cost of health coverage.
About 62 percent of uninsured adults cited high costs as the main reason for going without coverage prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, according to a survey funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The results of the survey, conducted by the Urban Institute, were released separately from the grant award announcement.
“These survey findings show that enrollment efforts directed at potential marketplace consumers need to stress the affordability of the newly available plans,” said Kathy Hempstead, who leads coverage issues for the foundation.
Certified application counselors receive the same training and background checks as federally funded health care navigators but are typically volunteers or paid by private groups.
There are only three navigators in Allegheny County, which has the second-highest percentage of uninsured people in the state. There are more than 30 organizations, including health centers and advocacy groups, that have trained an unknown number of certified application counselors in the Pittsburgh region.
The Consumer Health Coalition plans to hire two counselors in Pittsburgh using its share of the funding, Lehr O'Connell said. He did not know how many volunteers may be trained in Western Pennsylvania.
Benefits Data Trust, Pennsylvania Health Access Network and Enroll America also are participating in InsurePA.
InsurePA will target Allegheny County and the five-county Philadelphia region, which combined have an estimated 40 percent of the state's 1.2 million uninsured.
Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Marcellus shale driller Noble Energy Inc. sinks roots into Pittsburgh
- ‘Fresher, different, lot more fun’ guide changes at Kings Family Restaurants
- Minorities crucial to filling Marcellus shale gas drilling jobs
- Dick’s Sporting Goods benefits from winter as 4Q profit rose 7%
- Profit falls at American Eagle Outfitters on sales decline, charges
- Sbarro again files for bankruptcy reorganization
- Weather worsens McDonald’s sales struggles
- 1,500 Bangladesh factories set to be inspected by August
- Stocks dip on gloomy data from Asia
- EBay shareholders urged to reject Icahn picks
- ‘Boomerang’ buyers get another chance at homeownership