August 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Groups get $2.54M to educate Michigan residents on Obamacare

The federal government has awarded $2.54 million to four Michigan groups — including ACCESS in Dearborn — to educate Michiganians about Obamacare, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Thursday.

The money is part of $67 million in grants awarded to 105 organizations nationwide to provide trained federal “navigators” or guides to educate consumers on how the new health care law works, and help them sign up for the state health exchanges, an internet-based marketplaces where people will be able to price shop for low-cost health insurance policies starting Oct. 1.

An estimated $2.54 million will be awarded to the Arab Community Center for Economic & Social Services (ACCESS), Michigan Consumers for Healthcare, Community Bridges Management Inc., and American Indian Health & Family Services of Southeast Michigan, Inc.

Michigan turned down a roughly $31 million federal grant to implement the health exchange when the Republican-controlled Legislature voted down a state-run exchange. Instead, Michigan’s exchange is run in partnership with the federal government.

In a press release issued Thursday, Michigan Congressman John Dingell, D-Dearborn, called the navigators a “welcomed and much-needed resource to make sure folks get in-person and immediate answers and assistance.”

The navigators are opposed by critics of the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, who are resisting all efforts to implement federal health reform. One group last week called for a boycott against CVS Caremark because the pharmacy has agreed to allow federal navigators into its stores nationwide to educate people on the new healthcare law.

The following groups will be awarded grants to fund navigators in Michigan:

■Michigan Consumers for Healthcare (MCH), $1,319,345. The network includes statewide organizations and local affiliates with experience conducting Medicaid and outreach and enrollment and health insurance counseling for uninsured and vulnerable individuals and families. The project will provide services in 10 Michigan Regions and Tribal Health Centers, reaching consumers in every county of the state.

■ACCESS, $276,593. The non-profit service agency serves families in Metro Detroit’s Arab, Chaldean, and Bangladeshi American communities. Funds will be used to proactively reach out to and engage under/uninsured community members through local, multicultural electronic and print media, public access television and radio, and monthly ACCESS and community partner events, like weekly health “Expos” at the three County Public Health Offices.

■Community Bridges Management Inc., $896,366. This group provides services such as medical network management, claims processing oversight, provider relations, medical care service, patient relations and services. Funds will be used to provide both training and resources to make the process of enrolling in a health plan easier and more understandable through one-on-one contact. Community Bridges will also conduct widespread outreach and education activities.

■American Indian Health and Family Services, $49,583.50. Funds will be used to host educational forums, publications, provide self-service kiosks and expert personnel able to assist consumers to enroll in health plans.

KBouffard@detroitnews.com