Miami Herald: Feds Award $10M in Grants to Help Floridians Enroll for Obamacare

By Daniel Chang, The Miami Herald

Federal healthcare officials on Wednesday announced nearly $10 million in grants to fund in-person counseling for eligible Floridians to enroll for health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act exchange.

The grants announced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will help Florida-based and national organizations hire and train enrollment counselors known as “navigators.’’ Unlike independent insurance agents and brokers, navigators are prohibited from earning commissions or other monetary benefits for advising consumers on health plans.

Open enrollment for the ACA exchange begins on Nov. 1 for 2016 plans, and concludes on Jan. 31. Grants were awarded for a three-year period ending on Sept. 1, 2018, though the anticipated amounts announced Wednesday only apply to the first year.

Seven groups received the grants in Florida, including two organizations that will focus exclusively on Miami-Dade.

The Public Health Trust, which governs the county’s taxpayer-owned Jackson Health System, will receive $309,000 to focus on low-income blacks and Hispanics with an emphasis on limited English proficiency, people with disabilities, children and families with pre-existing medical conditions.

The National Alliance for Hispanic Health — a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that also will operate in Georgia, Illinois and Texas — will receive about $256,000 to focus on uninsured and under-insured Hispanic consumers in Miami-Dade.

Doral-based Epilepsy Foundation of Florida will receive a grant of $1.8 million to focus on immigrants, persons with disabilities and the LGBT community. The University of South Florida was awarded about $6 million. Both groups will work statewide.

Nationally, CMS announced $67 million in grants to 100 organizations in 34 states where the federal government either runs the insurance exchange, such as Florida, or provides support to state officials.