Healthcare Business News

Community health centers receive $150M in grants to help enroll uninsured

By Jessica Zigmond
Posted: July 10, 2013 - 1:45 pm ET

More than 1,000 of the nation's federally qualified community health centers have received a total of $150 million in grants to enroll uninsured Americans in coverage under the health reform law, HHS announced Wednesday.

The funding to community health centers had been expected this month, and is supposed to go toward helping consumers learn about options available to them in the state health insurance exchanges, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration issued the awards. HHS expects health centers will hire an additional 2,900 outreach and eligibility assistance workers to help millions of people enroll in health coverage.

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“Health centers are excited to help individuals in their communities take advantage of the benefits of new health insurance coverage options that start January 2014,” HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield said in a news release about the grants. “Having trained, face-to-face assistance in enrollment from trusted resources at local health centers means that more people will get the help they need.”

In all, 1,159 health centers across the country received the grants, and the funding levels varied by state. For instance, California and Texas—two states with high uninsured populations—received a total of $21,931,657 and $9,907,308, respectively. A spokeswoman for the National Association of Community Health Centers told Modern Healthcare late last month that these facilities serve more than 22 million people, of whom about 35% are uninsured.

Separately, the federally run and state-run exchanges, using federal funds, will hire navigators and in-person assisters to help consumers sign up for coverage in the exchanges. In mid-August, HHS is expected to award $54 million in navigator grant funding.

“Between now and October 1st when enrollment of people in health plans is to begin, health centers face enormous challenges to counter misinformation and educate the public about the benefits provided under the healthcare law,” said a statement from the National Association of Community Health Centers. “Surveys show that more than three-fourths of those uninsured Americans who are most likely to qualify are unaware of their coverage options. It is vital that everyone who works at a health center be actively engaged in helping eligible patients gain the coverage they need and deserve. We stand ready to do our part.”

Follow Jessica Zigmond on Twitter: @MHjzigmond

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