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March 20, 2013
TOPEKA A top official at the Kansas Insurance Department on Wednesday said the agency would have no say in deciding which organizations are awarded so-called "navigator" grants for helping Kansans understand and use the Affordable Care Act.
“We’re not even going to know who applies,” said Linda Sheppard, director of the department's division of accident and health insurance.
Sheppard said that because Gov. Sam Brownback last year decided to have federal rather than Kansas officials set up the state’s ACA-required health insurance exchange, the decision making on the grants would rest solely with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“This is a consequence of not having a state-run exchange,” she said, during a meeting with representatives of the Kansas Health Consumer Coalition, Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved, and Oral Health Kansas.
The navigators, Sheppard said, would be trained by HHS without input from the insurance department.
Sheppard said HHS is expected to begin encouraging groups to apply for grants in the “next couple of weeks.”
“We can’t tell the feds who to pick,” she said.
Sheppard said the department would be willing to write letters of recommendation for established, conflict-free groups that advocate for consumers likely to be affected by the Affordable Care Act.
HHS officials plans to have the navigator programs up and running by Oct. 1, Sheppard said.
Kansas Health Consumer Coalition Executive Director Anna Lambertson said she would begin calling other advocacy groups’ attention to the grants.
Other topics of discussion:
• Health insurance companies wanting to take part in the exchange have been told to notify the insurance department by May 1. The notification period begins March 29.
“That’s a really short timeframe,” Sheppard said. “It’s not good for the companies, it’s not good for the department, but it is what it is. We’re just going to have to deal with it.”
• Sheppard said that while the insurance department was committed to being well-versed on the workings of the Affordable Care Act, it has “no money” for mounting a statewide educational campaign.
• Polices sold through the exchange, Sheppard said, would cover mental health.
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