Helping businesses and individuals understand the new opportunities they have for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act came up at the public hearing yesterday before the Senate Finance Committee.
New Hampshire has been awarded a $5.4 million federal grant to provide consumer assistance to help people when the Health Benefits Marketplace goes live. Under the law, people would be able to start shopping for insurance products in October and get coverage that goes into effect in 2014.
New Hampshire businesses and individuals may qualify for various kinds of financial assistance, such as tax credits, and it will be important for them to understand the subsidies that are available to them only through the Marketplace.
The idea behind the federal grant is to allow the state Insurance Department to arrange for consumer assistance and outreach at the state level and to hire local people or organizations who know the needs of the businesses and people of the Granite State.
What New Hampshire needs now is permission to spend the money it already has been awarded. The first portion of the grant is awaiting approval by the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee. The grant money also is in the Insurance Department’s budget request to the Senate for the FY 2014-2015 budget.
Several people at the hearing, including Lisa Kaplan Howe at NH Voices for Health, asked the Senate Finance Committee to ensure this funding is available to the Insurance Department.
Offering people access to the federal web site that offers choices may not be enough. Some folks will need help on the phone and in person; many will need guidance to understand what’s available to them depending on their income, or number of employees or other factors. With this grant, local people and local organizations will be there to provide the answers.
Accepting the federal grant costs the state nothing and will be critical to helping Granite Staters understand and take advantage of the benefits they are entitled to under the law.