Posted: 9:04 a.m. Wednesday, July 10, 2013
By Phil Galewitz
The nation’s community health centers — which treat the poor and uninsured– apparently know a good deal when they see one.
Nearly all 1,200 federally funded community health centers applied for and will be getting a piece of $150 million in federal health law money to enroll patients in new online health insurance marketplaces starting Oct.1.
Federal health officials on Wednesday said 1,159 centers will be getting the new money offered in May to provide in-person enrollment assistance to uninsured individuals across the nation. The centers, which operate nearly 9,000 service delivery sites nationwide and serve approximately 21 million patients each year, will each get from $59,000 to $500,000. Health centers in every state, even those that have governors opposing the health law, will be getting some of the funding. The money will allow health centers to hire an additional 2,900 outreach and eligibility assistance workers to assist millions of people nationwide with enrollment into the exchanges.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the funding will help the centers enroll 3.7 million people into the Obamacare exchanges as well as Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurace Program.
Among activities planned:
-In Florida, a health center is hosting learning sessions at local libraries, churches and civic organizations.
–In Washington State, health centers are coordinating with local schools and libraries to let families know that they may be eligible for new insurance options.
–A health center in Michigan is coordinating with a coalition of over 30 African American churches to get the word out and help sign people up.
In New Mexico and South Dakota, health centers will be reaching individuals at summer and fall county fairs and rodeos to make sure they know about and sign up for the opportunities they qualify for in the new marketplace.
Health centers have long helped patients sign up for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Now, they’ll also be helping patients sign up for coverage and apply for the subsidies available to individuals and families earning less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level to buy private health insurance coverage on the exchanges.
About 60 percent of the patients who visit health centers are minorities, who are much more likely to be uninsured. Many are healthy and come to the centers for primary and preventive care. Officials are eager to get these people to join the insurance risk pools to help keep premiums low in the exchanges.
The new funds will double the resources available to community health centers for enrollment efforts. There are currently 4,000 community health center employees nationwide focused on enrollment. HHS hopes to nearly double that.
With these new funds, health centers will be able to hire new staff, train existing staff, and conduct community outreach events and other educational activities. Health center staff will provide consumers information about the new health insurance marketplaces and help them understand their coverage options so they can enroll in a plan. They can also answer questions about Medicaid and CHIP.
For a list of health centers receiving this funding, visit: http://www.hrsa.gov/about/news/2013tables/outreachandenrollment/
Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communications organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.