On Thursday, Governor Steve Bullock announced that $1 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds would be made available to rural and safety net health care providers to assist Montanans in finding and enrolling in affordable and comprehensive insurance coverage.

CEO of the Montana Primary Care Foundation Cindy Stergar explained the purpose of the grant monies.

“The million dollar grant, the majority of that money is going to go to safety net providers,” said Stergar. “The majority of the folks who are eligible to apply are critical access hospitals, tribal health departments, urban Indian health centers and community health centers so they can apply to receive funding to make sure they have somebody who is trained and certified within their facility to provide the enrollment assistance for folks who are losing coverage who might be uncovered and have questions and need that enrollment assistance, so the money is to have what we call a certified application counselor on their team.”

Engagement and Population Health Manager for the Montana Primary Care Foundation, Olivia Riutta described the people who will be helped by the grants.

“These are folks who have reduced hours or have been laid off who are going to be coming off an employer plan, and so the goal is to make sure that those folks have somebody here in Montana who can help answer their questions and walk them through the process so that they can continue to be covered by health insurance, either by Montana Medicaid or by the health insurance marketplace, depending upon what their family income is.”

Riutta said Medicaid is available to eligible Montanans at any time throughout the year.

“Folks can apply for Medicaid throughout the year, so if someone were to lose coverage within the Medicaid eligibility guidelines, they could then enroll in Medicaid,” she said. “If somebody is losing coverage and would be eligible for a plan under the health insurance marketplace then they would have to apply and tell the marketplace when they’re losing coverage. So, as soon as they know they’re losing coverage they can get on and enroll and can have a seamless transition. Although, there is a buffer, so if someone loses coverage they have up to 60 days to apply and see if they qualify for a special enrollment period, so that they can enroll in a plan.”

Of the $1 million, $300,000 will be devoted to Cover Montana, a program administered by the Montana Primary Care Association to support providers and coordinate outreach and enrollment effort.