NASHUA — Health officials gathered on Thursday to promote the Health Insurance Marketplace, a new way to find health coverage that will launch open enrollment on Oct. 1.
"We are ready to service anybody," said Ray Hurd, regional administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
CMS joined the New Hampshire Department of Insurance and several statewide partners to kick-off outreach efforts in Nashua for the New Hampshire Health Insurance Marketplace.
Thursday's event, hosted by Harbor Homes of Nashua, stressed the importance of community health centers throughout the state that will assist consumers in understanding their coverage options in the new marketplace available under President Barack Obama's health care law.
Throughout New Hampshire, 10 community health centers received a total of $808,000 in federal funds to hire additional outreach workers — or navigators — who will assist thousands of residents in enrolling in the new program starting Oct. 1. Coverage will actually begin on Jan. 1, 2014.
Last month, the Health Resources Services Administration awarded $150 million to 1,159 community health centers throughout the nation to assist with the launch of the program. Harbor Homes received $65,000 as part of that funding, according to Jeff Reck, regional administrator for HRSA.
"Great insurance options are coming," Reck said during Thursday's press conference.
The grants will make it possible for health centers throughout the state, including Harbor Homes, to assist the uninsured in enrolling in quality health coverage through the marketplace, according to health officials. Navigators are being trained on how to educate consumers about their new options.
"The goal is to increase access to health care for everyone," said Tess Stack Kuenning, president and CEO of Bi-State Primary Care Association. "We know coverage matters."
The Health Insurance Marketplace is being described as a new way to find health coverage that fits specific budgets and meets specific needs. With a single application, every coverage option will be highlighted prior to enrollment, allowing participants to get lower costs on monthly premiums for private insurance plans.
"The marketplace simplifies your search for health coverage by gathering the options available in your area in one place," says a description at www.healthcare.gov. "You can compare plans based on price, benefits, quality and other features important to you before you make a choice."
Peter Kelleher, president and CEO of Partnership for Successful Living and Harbor Homes, said that his organization serves a vulnerable population. According to Kelleher, 75 percent of the people served last month by his agency did not have health insurance.
"This is a new era of health reform," said Christie Hager, regional director for the Department of Health and Human Services. Hager described the launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace as a historic moment, adding in the past three years, about 10,000 young adults in New Hampshire have gained new coverage and about 300,000 people in the state now have access to free preventative insurance.
The navigators, or the individuals helping to educate the public about the new health insurance changes, are optimistic those numbers will continue to increase. On Thursday, it was announced that Bi-State Primary Care Association and Planned Parenthood of New England were selected for nationwide navigator awards.