August 14, 2013 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Whitman-Walker, Us Helping Us awarded ‘Obamacare’ grants
Whitman-Walker Health, gay news, Washington Blade

Whitman-Walker Health and Us Helping Us were among D.C. community organizations to receive city grants under the federal Obamacare program. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Whitman-Walker Health and Us Helping Us, which provide health services to the LGBT community and people with HIV/AIDS, were among 35 D.C. community organizations to receive city grants this week to help people enroll in health insurance plans under the federal Obamacare program.

The D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority created by Mayor Vincent Gray and the City Council to implement the federal Affordable Care Act insurance program, known as Obamacare, awarded a combined total of $6.4 million to the 35 groups.

Whitman-Walker received $380,000, the second largest of the 35 grants. Us Helping Us received $85,000 in grant funds.

“We are excited to create these partnerships with trusted organizations that have deep roots in the communities that make up the District of Columbia,” said Diane C. Lewis, Executive Board chair of the Health Benefit Exchange Authority.

“The new health law offers essential benefits that will improve the health and security of the residents of our city,” Lewis said in a statement.  “It is critically important that we have trained experts available to help ensure those benefits reach the people who need them.”

A statement released on Tuesday by the Health Benefit Exchange Authority says the grants, among other things, will support “rigorous training” of more than 150 people to enable them to become experts in helping D.C. residents and small businesses understand the complexities of the insurance exchange program and how to select an insurance plan best suited for them.

The insurance plans will become available on Oct. 1 through a website established by the authority called D.C. Health Link, the statement says. Insurance policies chosen under the program will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014, according to the statement.

“[T]he D.C. Health Link will soon offer insurance options to uninsured D.C. residents, many of whom are LGBT community members,” said Don Blanchon, Whitman-Walker’s executive director. “Now, with these grant funds, WWH will hire 3-4 additional employees to help these community members navigate their insurance options and choices,” he said.

“This grant will allow WWH not only to help current patients without insurance but also reach out to the broader LGBT community across the city,” Blanchon said.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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