United Way of Tarrant County Gets Nation’s Largest ‘Navigator’ Grant

The United Way of Metropolitan Tarrant County has been awarded nearly $6 million to help Texans navigate the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) grant of $5,889,171 was the nation’s largest navigator grant. Texas overall, which originally was supposed to receive about $8.2 million, was awarded $10.9 million—representing the largest amount given to any state. The United Way chapter, one of eight Texas organizations receiving grants, garnered more than half of the state’s grant money. It told HHS it planned to work with 16 organizations statewide to promote enrollment in the insurance marketplaces.

A total of 105 groups across the country received HHS grants to help explain coverage options where the federal government is running all or part of the newly created exchanges. Those receiving grants included community organizations, healthcare providers and universities.

“Navigators will be among the many resources available to help consumers understand their coverage options in the Marketplace,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. “A network of volunteers on the ground in every state—healthcare providers, business leaders, faith leaders, community groups, advocates and local elected officials—can help spread the word and encourage their neighbors to get enrolled.”

Don Smith, United Way vice president of community development, said the consortium of 17 organizations is called Consumer Health Insurance Marketplace Enrollment Services, or CHIMES. Smith said Tarrant County United Way was invited to be the lead applicant because of its experience in complex-project management. CHIMES includes United Way of Central Texas, 10 councils of government, the city of Houston and four community-based organizations. The group includes the Community Council of Greater Dallas, which is expected to serve several Dallas-Fort Worth counties.

About half of the more than 4.8 million uninsured Texans are expected to be eligible for the health insurance exchanges. Smith said CHIMES originally asked for $6.8 million, and had proposed to hire 75 full-time navigators. That number may be altered because  the request was not fully funded. Smith said CHIMES plans to have face-to-face conversations with 62,000 exchange-eligible consumers and reach more than a half million more through public meetings.

Smith said the consortium plans to have the navigators trained by Oct. 1 when enrollment begins.

“We have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time, but we’re optimistic we’ll be ready,” Smith said.

Martha Blaine, Community Council of Greater Dallas executive director, said her organization already has 10 counselors who help people enroll in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and will be cross-trained as navigators. She estimated another 10 would be hired, half of whom will be bilingual. The organization will be working in Dallas and 17 other metropolitan-area counties, including Collin and Denton.

“We are really excited by the opportunity to help the uninsured get enrolled. Most uninsured people eligible for the exchanges are either self-employed or can’t get it at work. They don’t know a lot about insurance. If you get insurance at work, you trust your employer to figure it out for you. If you can’t rely on an employer, it’s on you. We will be there to help.”

Steve Jacob is editor at large of D Healthcare Daily and author of Health Care in 2020: Where Uncertain Reform, Bad Habits, Too Few Doctors and Skyrocketing Costs Are Taking Us. He can be reached at steve.jacob@dmagazine.com.

  • JWM in Plano

    Really great to see the non-profits stepping up to assist in implementing the program in the face of the state’s intransigence and continued opposition to the program. Even if a public official was politically opposed to ACA, it is very hard to understand at this point in time, why even as a humanitarian concern, they would not be willing to encourage and assist uninsured in obtaining coverage that was previously unavailable to them. The good citizens of Dallas County for many years have been paying for medical care for uninsured through taxes collected for the benefit of Parkland Hospital. They have been kind enough to do this for people throughout North Texas as I point out to my friends in Dallas. However, one might think maybe the public is better served if they could obtain medical coverage in their locale rather than having to travel to Dallas and obtain services directly at the Dallas Co. taxpayer’s expense.

  • David Littlefield

    Who can I contact to explore the 80 Navigator positions to be filled by the Tarrant County United Way?

  • Linda Devin

    My daughter graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in Health Promotion and is now in graduate school in the area of Health Care Administration. She is interested in moving to Dallas and is seeking employment there. I am sure she would do great as a Navigator for the Affordable Health Care Act but we cannot find out where she is supposed to apply to take training to become a Navigator. Will you please respond as soon as possible as I see there is a deadline to get the training. Thanks, Linda

  • Nancey Boseman

    Dear Sir/Madam: I completed and passed the “Navigator” Curriculum as soon as it was available on line. Since that time, I have tried to find a position as a Navigator to no avail. I recently received the name of your company through HHS. I live in the rural area of Wilson County and can tell you that we have no one offering assistance to anyone in our area. I would be happy to send my resume and would like to be considered for the position of “Navigator”, if you desire same. Please advise me if any positions are available thru your company. Thanking you in advance for your consideration in this matter.