State announces grants to educate Californians about health insurance exchange

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Covered California, the state agency that will run the health insurance marketplace created by the federal health care law, is handing out $37 million in federal grant money to 48 organizations to educate  Californians about the new insurance exchange.

California residents will be able to sign up for insurance with the exchange in October.  The federal Affordable Care Act says most people must have insurance beginning Jan. 1, 2014 or pay a tax penalty that for individuals starts at $95 in 2014, or 1 percent of annual household income - whichever is greater. The penalty then climbs annually until it reaches  $695 in 2016, or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is greater.

The grants will go to organizations that include non-profit health providers, unions, small business groups, colleges and universities with access to millions of Californians and thousands of small businesses statewide.

The grantees will provide grass-roots education, community outreach and enrollment assistance.

You can see a list of the grantees and a description of each one here.
Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee  says it's going to take a lot of human contact to properly explain the complicated law to consumers and to guide them in the enrollment process. 
"There's  a lot to learn, a lot to explain and not a lot of time to do it. But if people don't know about the opportunity, they don't understand how to apply, they won't enroll," says Lee. "And it's been clear to us from the start that Covered California can’t deliver the message from behind the desks in Sacramento."
Lee says the grantees  were chosen in part for their wide reach into diverse populations within the state's 58 counties; for their partnerships with 250 other organizations and for their ability to translate information about the federal health law into numerous languages.  

Lee says of the 48 grant recipients, 43 will reach out to individuals and five will work with small businesses.  More than 200 organizations applied for the grants.