3 groups awarded grants to help insure Montanans

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Planned Parenthood and two other groups have been awarded a combined $738,000 in federal grants to help uninsured Montanans sign up for new subsidized, private coverage under the health care overhaul law.

At the same time, the state’s insurance commissioner is warning residents to watch out for scammers trying to sell fake insurance or bogus identity cards under the guise of the Affordable Care Act.

Planned Parenthood of Montana will receive $295,000 to hire and train “navigators” to tell people their options for signing up for insurance, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported in a story published Friday.

The Montana Primary Care Association was awarded $299,400 and the Montana Health Network will receive $143,000.

Navigators will be trained to provide “unbiased information in a culturally competent manner” to consumers about their options to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials said in announcing the grants.

Planned Parenthood has several health clinics around the state.

“We looked at our patient population, and a majority of them will be eligible to enter the (federal) insurance marketplace on Oct. 1,” said Stacey Anderson, public affairs director for Planned Parenthood. “We want to play a role to help guide them through the process and help them understand what insurance products they could get.”

The Montana Primary Care Association represents the state’s 30 federally funded health and satellite clinics, while the Montana Health Network is a cooperative serving small hospitals in eastern Montana.

Chris Hopkins, vice president of strategy and business development for the network, said its grant will go to train hospital staff to be navigators.

“People in rural communities are going to the hospitals anyways to ask for health information, so we’re training staff on site at those facilities to be those navigators,” he said.

Montana and other states will have an Internet insurance exchanges starting Oct. 1 for consumers to shop for policies that take effect Jan. 1. People who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or almost $46,000 for a single person, are eligible for subsidies.

Blue Cross, PacificSource and the new Montana Health Co-op will be selling policies on Montana’s marketplace.

On Friday, Montana Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen warned residents to be on the lookout for fake insurance exchanges online. Real health exchanges aren’t available until Oct. 1, and the sites that are appearing may be used to commit identity fraud, Lindeen said in a statement.

She also warned of con artists selling federal insurance cards or telling seniors they need a new Medicare card because of changes in the Affordable Care act. There is no need for any new cards, she said.

Other scammers also have tried selling fake young-adult policies they claim are needed to allow people up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ health plans.

There is no need for a separate young adult policy, she said.

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