County Agency Awarded Grant To Lead Program

SNOW HILL — Worcester County Health Department officials this month announced the agency has been selected by the state to implement a regional consumer assistance program to help educate, determine eligibility and enroll uninsured residents across the Lower Shore into private health plans or Medicaid.

In the wake of mandates handed down to the states under the guise of ObamaCare, Maryland lawmakers this winter passed the state’s Affordable Care Act (ACT). Out of that legislation was borne the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, a public corporation and unit of the state government charged with the implementation of the state-based insurance exchange program.

The Worcester County Health Department announced this week it had been chosen to facilitate the state’s health care program and provide consumer assistance for health insurance to uninsured residents across the region. An anticipated $1.2 million grant will fund the new program, which includes staff who will provide face-to-face assistance with navigating the Maryland Health Connection.

ACT requires all Americans to acquire healthcare insurance from one of a variety of sources by January 2014. Some will be able to find affordable health insurance on their own, while others will likely need state assistance. The program for which the county health department will be a facilitator will help connect uninsured residents with the appropriate state programs if necessary.

The state-based health insurance marketplace will serve residents in Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties. The Lower Shore program operated by the Worcester County Health Department will employ 17 new positions.

“We are honored to be selected as the connector program for the Lower Eastern Shore,” said Worcester County Health Officer Debbie Goeller this week. “We look forward to working with our state and local partners to help people select plans offered through Maryland Health Connection.”

Education and outreach about the Maryland Health Connection will begin this summer, with open enrollment for the health benefit plans expected to take place from October 2013 to March 2014. Details about office hours, enrollment services, call center and other operations will be announced later this summer.

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