D.C. groups receive $6.4 million to help uninsured sign up for health insurance

August 13, 2013

District officials awarded $6.4 million in grants Tuesday to community organizations to hire more than 150 trained experts to help uninsured residents learn about and enroll in health insurance this fall on the District’s new insurance marketplace.

The marketplace, known as DC Health Link, is the Web site where people can compare and shop for health insurance. Enrollment begins Oct. 1 for coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2014. People will also be able to find out if they qualify for financial help to reduce their costs or whether they’re eligible for Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor.

Under the federal health law known as the Affordable Care Act, all Americans over 18 must carry health insurance starting next year or face a fine. Experts say reliable information is critical because confusion about the law is rampant, and resources for consumer assistance vary widely.

Among the 35 organizations receiving grants are the DC Primary Care Association, La Clinica del Pueblo, Brown Memorial AME Church, Unity Healthcare Inc., Whitman-Walker Clinic Inc. and Planned Parentwood of Metropolitan Washington. The executive board of the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority approved the grants unanimously.

The organizations will focus on helping the uninsured and hard-to-reach populations. About 42,000 people, or 7 percent of the population, is uninsured. More than half of the District’s uninsured residents are African American, two-thirds are male and a majority are under 35 years old. The uninsured live mostly in Ward 1 (22.7 percent), Ward 4 (18.7 percent) and Ward 7 (18.1 percent), based on 2009 estimates.

Officials are hoping that an additional 150,000 people who already have insurance will buy a plan on the exchange; some may be eligible for financial help.

Lena H. Sun is a national reporter for The Washington Post, focusing on health.
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