August 15. 2013 10:19PM

Planned Parenthood to play role in NH's insurance exchange

State House Bureau

CONCORD — Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is one of two organizations the federal Health and Human Services agency selected to be "navigators" for the state's health insurance exchange, which begins operation Oct. 1.

The selection of Planned Parenthood for a $145,161 grant did not sit well with at least one organization, the conservative advocacy group Cornerstone Action.

"It is a shame that these federal dollars will be going to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. As an abortion service provider, federal dollars and public funds should not be granted to this organization," said Cornerstone Action Executive Director Ashley Pratte. "With Planned Parenthood expected to launch its own Obamacare awareness campaign, we can only hope that it will create a discussion around how this money is being used and what services will be promoted with it."

Planned Parenthood said in a statement it will provide in-person health assistance and outreach to thousands of state residents under the grant.

Last year, PPNNE served nearly 16,000 patients in six health centers located in Claremont, Derry, Exeter, Keene, Manchester and West Lebanon, the statement said, and is a trusted provider.

"PPNNE looks forward to working in partnership with the state in moving health care reform forward and increasing access to quality health care," the statement said.

The federal agency also selected Bi-State Primary Care Association to help consumers on the exchange compare plans and determine eligibility for federal subsidies or Medicaid.

The organizations are to assist citizens shopping for and enrolling in health insurance plans in the electronic marketplaces required under the Affordable Care Act. Bi-State Primary Care Association, a charitable organization representing 12 health centers and one rural health network, will receive a grant of $434,839.

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England will primarily serve individuals in Hillsborough, Rockingham, Grafton, Cheshire and Sullivan counties, while Bi-State will serve eight counties in the state.

The exchanges will open Oct. 1, and insurance coverage will begin Jan. 1 under the ACA.

The navigators are separate from a state education and outreach plan developed by the state Insurance Department.

The plan was never approved by a legislative health reform oversight committee and the $5.4 million federal grant for the project was never included in the state budget.

While Republican lawmakers blocked the grant by refusing to add the money to the Insurance Department's budget, the agency's commissioner, Roger Sevigny, announced earlier this month that a quasi-governmental group, New Hampshire Health Plan, would apply for the grant and use it for outreach and consumer assistance at the state level.

The group manages the state's high-risk health insurance pool for individuals who are unable to obtain coverage from private insurers.

Republicans called the move an end run around state law and asked for an investigation.

Last year's Legislature prohibited the state from running its own exchange and instead left it to the federal government to operate the electronic marketplace for New Hampshire.

Only one carrier — Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield — has been approved to offer plans on the state's exchange.

Delta Dental has been approved to offer dental insurance.