Lt. Governor Mike Cooney today announced $542,000 in grant funding has been awarded to 19 rural and safety net health care providers to assist Montanans in finding and enrolling in affordable and comprehensive insurance coverage.
“I’m thrilled that this grant program will help Montana overcome funding reductions at the federal level and provide access to comprehensive health care coverage at a more affordable cost,” Lt. Gov. Cooney said. “Public resources to help Montanans access free, local help over the phone or at their doctor’s office is critical, especially at a time when many Americans are feeling the economic impacts of COVID-19.”
“Since 2013, our care managers at RiverStone Health have been helping families access affordable health insurance coverage through the federal health insurance marketplace,” said John Felton, RiverStone Health President and CEO and Yellowstone County Health Officer. “With this award, we look forward to augmenting our efforts that give peace of mind that comes from knowing a cancer diagnosis or one accident will not bankrupt a family.”
Lt. Gov. Cooney announced the Safeguard Access to Care grant at an event at RiverStone Health is Billings on Friday. The program was created to ensure Montanans have access to quality and affordable health care, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds can be used to train or pay for certified application counselors or promote coverage options through open enrollment and beyond.
Governor Bullock recently directed $1 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds to the program. A total of $300,000 was directed 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 was made available to hospitals, community health centers, urban Indian clinics and the eight Tribal nations in Montana that currently employ or will hire certified application counselors to connect people with health coverage. The funds can also be used to train or pay for staffing costs for certified application counselors or promotion of coverage options through open enrollment and beyond.
Lt. Gov. Cooney also announced that more than $152,000 is still available and the deadline to apply has been extended to September 4 to ensure facilities that are working to respond to COVID-19 in their communities have enough time to apply.
A total of 19 facilities have been awarded to:
- RiverStone Health – $30,000
- Northwest Community Health Center – $30,000
- Southwest Montana Community Health Center – $30,000
- Bullhook Community Health Center – $30,000
- Partnership Health Center in Missoula – $30,000
- Sapphire Community Health Ravalli/Hamilton – $2,000
- Bridgercare – $30,000
- Marias Healthcare Services – $30,000
- Bighorn Valley Health Center – $30,000
- PureView Health Center – $30,000
- Montana Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Council – $30,000
- Community Health Partners – $30,000
- Alluvion Health – $30,000
- All Nations Health Center– $30,000
- Flathead Community Health Center – $30,000
- Glacier Community Health Center – $30,000
- Helena Indian Alliance – $30,000
- Northern Cheyenne Tribal Board of Health– $30,000
- Benefis Health Systems – $30,000
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.
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 begins November 1 and ends December 15. Individuals who have lost employer sponsored 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 interested in applying for the remaining funds can apply for a maximum of $30,000 at covidrelief.mt.gov.