Community health centers to get $150M for PPACA enrollment efforts

By BenefitsPro

By Kathryn Mayer

The Obama administration announced Thursday it will spend $150 million on efforts to help the uninsured enroll in new coverage options through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The Department of Health and Human Services said the money will go to help community health centers provide in-person enrollment assistance to the uninsured across the nation.

About 1,200 health centers operate nearly 9,000 service delivery sites nationwide and serve approximately 21 million patients each year.

Beginning in July, each center will get a minimum of $55,000, and will have to provide quarterly reports documenting how many people they enrolled for health coverage.

“Health centers have extensive experience providing eligibility assistance to patients, are providing care in communities across the nation, and are well-positioned to support enrollment efforts,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. “Investing in health centers for outreach and enrollment assistance provides one more way the Obama administration is helping consumers understand their options and enroll in affordable coverage.”

In a conference call with reporters, Sebelius acknowledged the job "won't be easy."

"Many of the Americans we're trying to reach have spent their whole lives locked out or priced out of the health insurance market," she said.

The announcement comes just before both the administration and other outside groups are beginning a major marketing push to inform consumers about the exchanges under PPACA.

The administration said the new funding aligns with its other efforts for the exchanges, including $54 million in navigator grants, which were announced last month.

Cecilia Munoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House, said that more than 60 percent of the patients who get care at community health centers are from racial or ethnic minority groups that make up a disproportionate share of the uninsured. She said the centers are a trusted presence in many neighborhoods.

"They work on the front lines of the system. They help people overcome cost and language barriers," Munoz said.

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