By Elise Viebeck - 08/15/13 04:44 PM EDT
Three state-based Planned Parenthood affiliates will receive a total of about $655,000 from the federal government to help consumers navigate their insurance options under ObamaCare.
The grants were announced Thursday as the administration prepares a wide effort to educate the public ahead of open enrollment in the insurance exchanges.
Planned Parenthood affiliates based in Iowa, Montana and New Hampshire received awards to participate in the "navigator" program alongside disease groups, universities and Catholic health agencies.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the group's political arm, was also a strong ally of President Obama in the last election.
The federal Health Department distributed a total of $67 million in grants Thursday, $13 million more than what was expected.
The funds are intended to support in-person help for people trying to understand the new insurance marketplaces.
The Planned Parenthood affiliates that received grants were: Iowa-based Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Montana-based Intermountain Planned Parenthood and New Hampshire-based Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
The three organizations received between $145,000 and $296,000 each.
All organizations that received grants Thursday will operate in states where the federal government has a role in running the new insurance marketplaces.
The District of Columbia, which is operating its own exchange, came under fire this week when it announced a $350,000 grant to Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. to help educate the uninsured.
Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), a leading opponent of abortion rights in the House, panned the decision as "the federal funding of abortion providers."
Planned Parenthood has been a major target for House Republicans since the 2010 wave election.
The GOP has tried several times to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood's medical services, which include cancer screenings, because the group also provides abortions.
The national Planned Parenthood Federation of America did not apply for "navigator" funding, a spokeswoman said in June.
The group is expected to launch its own national awareness campaign about ObamaCare this fall.
Organizations on the other side of the ideological spectrum also received grants Thursday.
They included Ascension Health ($202,706 in Alabama and $165,683 in Kansas), the largest Catholic and nonprofit health system, and Catholic Social Services with the Archdiocese of Mobile ($20,750).