HONOLULU (AP) -- Hawaii's health insurance marketplace has awarded grants to 34 community organizations to help uninsured people learn about insurance options under President Barack Obama's signature health care law.
The grants announced Monday total $6.7 million. They will go to groups on all the islands, including the Lanai Community Health Center, the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and the Hawaii Island HIV/AIDS Foundation.
The funds will be used to hire 191 assisters to directly talk with people about coverage options available in the marketplace, which begins open enrollment in October.
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said the grants are part of a statewide, community-based approach to informing and assisting residents with their health care.
Executive Director Coral Andrews of the Hawaii Health Connector says the assisters will help simplify what can be a confusing, difficult process.
"People understand that these organizations have close connections to their communities," Andrews said.
The assisters are part of a nationwide pitch to uninsured people, a difficult group to reach. Those targeted include the working poor, people who gave up insurance because of high costs, and young people who are disengaged. Reducing the blind spot in America's health care system is part of what will determine whether the new law is successful.
Publicity, marketing and advertising alone will cost at least $684 million nationwide, according to data compiled by The Associated Press from federal and state sources.
In Hawaii, the marketplace is planning a customer support center that will operate 12 hours a day, seven days a week during open enrollment.
Bonnie Anela McAfee-Torco, program manager for Hawaii's assister program, said the assisters will help families make the best health care decisions possible.
"We are taking outreach efforts deeper into each community and connecting individuals, families and small businesses with the health insurance and financial assistance options available to them," she said.
Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia