By Taylor Sisk

Department of Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius announced on Thursday that Community Care of North Carolina will be one of 105 organizations across the country to receive funding to help people shop for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Enrollment in the health insurance exchanges begins Oct. 1 and the program goes into effect Jan. 1.

Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC) is a not-for-profit statewide network of primary care practices that focuses on preventive measures and continuity of care. CCNC received just under $2 million from HHS, the fourth-highest grant awarded. A total of $67 million in grants was made available.

ACA_navigator_boxCCNC will serve as a facilitator for a consortium of organizations that will provide what HHS is calling “navigators.” These navigators will assist North Carolinians who request help in shopping for and enrolling in plans in the new health insurance marketplace.

We play this facilitator role regularly because of our unique statewide infrastructure,” said Paul Mahoney, CCNC’s director of communications. “We have people and relationships everywhere in North Carolina and a central organization to help disseminate info and pull it all together.”

“Navigators will be among the many resources available to help consumers understand their coverage options in the Marketplace,” Sebelius said in a statement.

“A network of volunteers on the ground in every state – health care providers, business leaders, faith leaders, community groups, advocates, and local elected officials – can help spread the word and encourage their neighbors to get enrolled,” she said.

To become certified, the navigators will be required to complete 20 to 30 hours of training to provide “unbiased information in a culturally competent manner to consumers” about health insurance in general, the new marketplace, qualified health plans and public programs. They will be required to abide by strict security and privacy standards.

“I suspect the biggest request will be to show uninsured individuals how to determine whether or not they will qualify for subsidized coverage,” Mahoney said.

He said he anticipates the consortium will eventually deploy about 40 navigators, some of whom will likely come from existing staff at CCNC and consortium partners, with some new hires, though the details have not yet been worked out.

Also earning grants were Randolph Hospital in Asheboro, which received $352,320; Mountain Projects, which serves Haywood and Jackson counties, $359,750; and the Alcohol/Drug Council of North Carolina, which will provide services for people recovering from mental illness or substance abuse, $324,798.

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