Three nonprofits are expected to get $1.5 million in federal grants to help Louisiana residents get coverage through the federal online health insurance marketplace offered in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the anticipated grants will go to:

  • The Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center, $1,023,256
  • The National Healthy Start Association, $391,846
  • The Capital Area Agency on Aging, District II, in Baton Rouge, $110,000

In 2013, the Southwest center received $1.1 million and Capital Area Agency $100,000 in navigator grant funding.

“This is what’s going to make this year so much better than last year. This funding will sustain the program that we’ve already set up as opposed to starting from scratch like we did the first year,” said Brian Burton, state director of the Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center.

Burton’s group will serve as something of the lead navigator entity in the state, with navigators covering areas throughout the state.

The navigators help people shop for and enroll in health coverage through the online health insurance marketplace.

The 2013 grant funding ended Aug. 15, so some of the center’s original navigators were furloughed, but the center will try to get as many of those back as possible, Burton said.

A lot of changes have taken place since last year, so each of the navigators will have to go through another 20 hours of training, Burton said. Last year, navigators had to complete an online course and be registered with the federal government. This year, the navigators will be licensed by the state Department of Insurance.

National Healthy Start served as a navigator in Wisconsin and West Virginia but is expanding its efforts to several additional states.

Two of the original grant winners, Southern United Neighborhoods and Martin Luther King Health Center, were not among the grant recipients in 2014. Southern United received $486,123 to help enroll people in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas. Martin Luther King Health Center in Shreveport received $81,066 in 2013 to help people in Caddo and Bossier parishes.

According to HHS, the 2013 grant recipients had to reapply to receive 2014 funds.

Past performance was taken into account when the agency made the awards. However, some of the original navigator nonprofits did not apply for a second round of funding while others lost out because the federal government reduced the amount of money available for navigators, among other factors.

Burton said the Southwest Center will work with its regional and statewide advisory panels to identify the areas where there are gaps in coverage and then take steps to fill those gaps.

The navigators helped an estimated 10.6 million consumers nationally apply for coverage in marketplace plans, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program during the first open enrollment period. The Southwest Center and Capital Area Agency on Aging helped more than 42,000 individuals and families with enrollment. Around 102,000 Louisiana residents bought coverage through the online marketplace.

Follow Ted Griggs on Twitter @tedgriggsbr.