The Department of Health and Human Services has made more than $2.5 million available to educate uninsured individuals and families living in rural America about new health coverage options through the Affordable Care Act, and help them enroll in newly available insurance plans.
Rural health organizations across the country will receive $25,000 each from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an HHS agency, to help people in their communities understand the benefits available to them, eligibility requirements and options in their state health insurance marketplaces. Recipients include universities, local and critical hospitals and other rural nonprofit or public organizations.
Soon millions of Americans in rural communities will have new opportunities for quality, affordable coverage through the health insurance marketplace, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a news release. Through these awards, trusted community providers will help people understand their coverage options, including whether they can get a discount on costs.
The Department of Agriculture is also helping with the national outreach effort through the Cooperative Extension Service. Through funding provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, USDAs National Institute of Food and Agriculture is working with the University of Georgia to establish a network of educators to help uninsured and underinsured consumers make informed decisions about participating in the insurance marketplaces. The university will use the $1.25 million inter-agency agreement to coordinate outreach activities in 12 states.
Nearly one in five uninsured adults in the United States live in a rural area, and there is a great need to educate rural consumers about their insurance options under the Affordable Care Act, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in the news release. USDA and its partners in the Cooperative Extension Service are uniquely positioned to connect with local communities in rural America, providing viable education and outreach to consumers about their healthcare options.
The awards complement other federal efforts to help consumers make the best healthcare choices for themselves and their families. Along with the consumer-focused HealthCare.gov website and the 24-hour-a-day consumer call center, these new tools will help Americans understand their coverage options and select the plan that best suits their needs when open enrollment in the new marketplaces commonly known as health insurance exchanges begins Oct. 1.
Enrollment for 2014 continues in the exchanges through March 31 of next year, by which date most Americans must have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. Coverage begins as early as Jan. 1 for those enrolled by Dec. 15, 2013.
List of grant recipients: www.hrsa.gov/about/news/2013tables/ruraloutreach.