CONCORD, N.H. — As enrollment gets underway in new online insurance markets nationwide, a significant outreach effort is just getting off the ground in New Hampshire.
The New Hampshire Health Plan, which currently runs the state’s high-risk insurance pool, got approval only Monday to accept a $5 million federal grant for state-specific outreach and education about President Barack Obama’s health overhaul law. It chose six organizations that will serve as so-called marketplace assisters and plans to hire another company to develop a state website and advertising campaign.
Some of the marketplace assister organizations say they’ve already been working to figure out how best to reach out to the public. And while they wish the funding had come through earlier, they are building on existing resources and starting with outreach to consumers they already serve. “We’re excited to jump into it,” said Shawn LaFrance, executive director of the Foundation for Healthy Communities. “I think we’ll all be learning something … but I think it’s great that we can build on some existing infrastructure in New Hampshire to carry forward.”
The foundation estimates it can reach about 59,000 people through two programs it coordinates that connect people with discount prescriptions and medical care. “There are people without insurance who people will need to go out and find – and we’ll do some of that – but we feel like we have a lot of these people coming through the door all the time,” he said.
Though New Hampshire opted not to run its own online markets, Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan’s administration has tried to have the state partner with the federal government to manage health plans and provide consumer assistance. After Republicans blocked the state insurance department from accepting a $5.3 million federal grant for consumer outreach and education, the New Hampshire Health Plan applied for the funding instead.
That money came through Monday – the night before enrollment in the new insurance markets began – and the plan has contracted with six social service and health care groups to provide direct guidance for individuals and small businesses. In addition to the Foundation for Healthy Communities, the other organizations are: Greater Derry Community Health Services, the North Country Health Consortium, the Bhutanese Community of New Hampshire, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and the ServiceLink Resource Center Consortium in Laconia.
Separately, Planned Parenthood and Bi-State Primary Care, which represents community health centers, were awarded $600,000 in federal funding to serve as navigators, a role designed to help consumers explore their options.
Sen. Jeb Bradley, a Republican who serves on the Legislature’s health reform oversight committee, said he remains concerned about the limited training both the navigators and marketplace assisters will receive.