Nonprofit set to promote Ga. exchange enrollment

Print Friendly and PDF By: Andy Miller Published: Sep 5, 2013

A national nonprofit encouraging enrollment in insurance exchanges will kick off its Georgia operations this weekend with a neighborhood outreach effort in metro Atlanta.

Enroll America’s newly hired state director, Dante McKay, said Thursday that local staff and volunteers will educate consumers this weekend about the new exchange, or marketplace, set to begin enrolling Georgians next month.

The Enroll America organization, which has close ties to the White House, joins community health centers, insurance “navigators,” federal officials and other groups at the forefront of the effort to help the uninsured and underinsured gain new coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). State exchanges are part of the effort.

Georgia is one of 10 states that have drawn a special focus from Enroll America. Nine of the states, including Georgia, have Republican governors.

The 10 states have high rates of uninsured, McKay said, especially among minorities.

“We’re the last state to come on line,’’ McKay said.

He said he hopes to build a network of hundreds of staff and volunteers in Georgia. “We want to hit it hard and heavy during the open enrollment period,’’ he said.

The ACA, passed in 2010 and now heading into final implementation, has sparked fierce opposition from Republican leaders in Georgia ever since it was proposed. Recently, some Georgia-based corporations such as Delta Air Lines and UPS have complained about the law’s effect on their costs.

Meanwhile, the two organizations hiring and training navigators in Georgia are among 51 groups receiving letters from Republican members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, requesting extensive documentation about the groups’ participation in the program.

The two groups, which won Georgia navigator grants, are Seedco (Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation) and the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences and Cooperative Extension Service.

At the national level, GOP congressmen are leading the charge to defund the Affordable Care Act. Asked about this effort, McKay of Enroll America told Georgia Health News that he’s sticking with the enrollment game plan.

“My objective today is to plan for activities in the state. I can’t worry about tomorrow.’’

“We’re staying away from the political and sticking to the facts,’’ McKay said.

Dante McKay

Dante McKay

Enroll America will hit the streets nationally starting Saturday as part of “Get the Word Out Weekend.’’

The group is funded by health insurers, hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, employers, consumer groups, faith-based organizations, civic organizations, and philanthropies.

“We’re public education and outreach,’’ McKay said.

Enroll America will eventually have offices in Atlanta and another city in the state, McKay said. With open enrollment less than a month away. He added, “We’ve got a lot of ground to cover.’’

“All of this is new,’’ he said. “It’s a fundamental shift in health insurance.’’

The Republican committee letters, sent to navigator organizations in various states, have stirred some resentment among such groups nationally, according to a Kaiser Health News article. The Obama administration last week characterized the Republican effort as a “blatant and shameful attempt to intimidate.”

The letters say the Energy and Commerce Committee is seeking the information “in order to better understand the work that you will perform as a Navigator and the consumer protections that will be in place before open enrollment begins.”

Seedco told GHN on Thursday that it was cooperating with the committee’s request for information regarding the navigator grant.

“We continue to work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and our community partners to implement the Navigator program in Georgia and help individuals and families access affordable health care,’’ said Seedco in a statement.

A UGA spokesman said the College of Family and Consumer Sciences had received a letter and was reviewing it, but otherwise had no comment on it.

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