New federal funding aims to better connect Delawareans to affordable care

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure (left) recently visited Westside Family Healthcare in Wilmington with Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (in purple) to announce new funding for navigators to help connect patients to insurance under the ACA

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure (left) recently visited Westside Family Healthcare in Wilmington with Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (in purple) to announce new funding for navigators to help connect patients to insurance under the ACA. (Westside Family Healthcare/Facebook)

For the past three years, Westside Family Healthcare has received $100,000 annually to fund patient navigators who help connect Delaware residents to health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

That’s less than the $300,000 Westside got in 2017, before the Trump administration limited federal support for the navigator program.

Under the Biden administration, the funding has been expanded, and Westside will now receive $1 million over the next three years to create 12 navigator positions at facilities throughout the state.

Westside CEO Lolita Lopez said five navigator positions will be stationed at locations in Bear, Newark, and Wilmington. Another seven navigators will be spread out in communities trying to connect with those in need.

Navigators provide residents with information about the ACA health insurance exchange and which plans are available. They can help applicants determine which subsidies they may qualify for through the ACA, and they can also connect them to Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program if they qualify.

“Delaware is very fortunate that our uninsured rates are relatively low,” Lopez said. “But for all of us … anyone uninsured is too many, so we’re going to do our best to find them.”

The federal money, from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), will help Westside specifically target underserved and diverse populations across the urban, rural, and suburban areas of the state, especially migrant and seasonal agricultural workers.

“The Affordable Care Act was a huge step for us as a country. But we also know that if people don’t know about it, then they don’t have it,” said U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, Delaware’s congresswoman. “This navigator program is really designed to help get the word out to people, to help people be able to navigate through the process, to pick the plans that are best for them and potentially save money on their premiums.”

CMS administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure recently visited Westside to talk about the new funding.

“Local health coverage experts have worked hard to build relationships and trust in the communities in which they serve. These navigators consistently help consumers understand their options, helping with potential language and other barriers, so they can find health coverage that best fits their needs,” Brooks-LaSure said. “With this additional grant funding, even more navigators will be able to provide comprehensive assistance through customized educational and outreach activities, especially to underserved communities.”

In addition to the funding for Westside, Quality Insights Inc., a Delaware not-for-profit company focused on health care quality improvement, will get more than $856,770 for its navigator program.

Nationally, CMS is distributing $80 million in 30 states to train and certify more than 1,500 navigators.

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