Access to health care grants announced

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

HELENA – One million dollars in Coronavirus Relief Funds is available to rural and safety net health care providers in the state, to assist Montana residents in finding and enrolling in affordable and comprehensive insurance coverage.

Gov. Steve Bullock announced the grants July 30.

"During these difficult and unprecedented times, access to quality, affordable health care is critically important to Montanans’ well-being," Bullock said. "By helping small primary care and safety net providers find and assist uninsured Montanans, we're making sure Montanans who need affordable health care coverage can get it and can keep themselves and their families safe."

Access to comprehensive and affordable health care improves health outcomes, including for chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and lung disease. Those with chronic conditions are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, especially if those conditions are not well managed. A lack of health coverage could also discourage individuals from seeking care, including testing or treatment for COVID-19, as well as other health issues.

Of the $1 million, $300,000 will be devoted to Cover Montana, a program administered by the Montana Primary Care Association to support providers and coordinate outreach and enrollment efforts. The remaining $700,000 will be divided into $30,000 grants to providers to support onsite certified application counselors to help Montanans find and sign up for comprehensive health coverage.

"Health insurance coverage is key to keeping our communities and economy healthy," Cindy Stergar, CEO of the Montana Primary Care Association. "Local enrollment assistance is key to getting information and support out to folks who have questions and need help enrolling in coverage. This is an exciting opportunity to invest in our health now and in the future and to get Montana covered."

Eligible providers include Montana’s hospitals, community health centers, urban Indian clinics, and the eight Tribal nations in Montana that currently employ or will hire certified application counselors to help people find coverage. The funds can be used to train or pay for staffing costs for certified application counselors or promotion of coverage options through open enrollment and beyond.

Certified application counselors are typically based in a health care provider’s office and can offer in person guidance to ensure Montanans secure affordable and quality health coverage. Many Montana providers have had to eliminate or scale back efforts to offer assistance to individuals seeking coverage after the federal government greatly reduced funding. The federal government has also almost entirely eliminated its funding for education and outreach efforts that provide people with information about the options available to them and financial assistance that may be available.

Open enrollment is from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. Individuals who have lost employer coverage can apply within 60 days of losing coverage and individuals who have lost income may be eligible for price breaks on insurance coverage through healthcare.gov for Medicaid, or Healthy Montana Kids. Montanans can apply for Medicaid and Healthy Montana Kids at any time.

Providers will be eligible to apply for the $30,000 grants on a first come, first served basis starting Aug. 10 to providers who have a certified application counselor or will use the funds to hire and train one. For more information, visit covidrelief.mt.gov.