Community Health Centers in Arkansas have been enlisted to help people sign up for health insurance coverage, something required of most Americans by next year under the Affordable Care Act. Over $1.4 million is coming to the state to hire new outreach experts and boost technology to assist those without coverage in signing up.
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced the grants last week.
"So many Americans have spent their whole lives being frustrated, gouged, or turned away by our health care system," she said. "Connecting them with information they need to finally get quality, affordable coverage is a huge undertaking."
HHS expects the funding to help more than 40,000 Arkansans sign up for health insurance coverage. According to Mary Wakefield, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, Health Centers know their neighborhoods best, and have been connecting people to coverage for years.
"Over and over again, Health Centers have seen firsthand the health challenges faced by families without health insurance," she said. "We really wanted to capitalize on their long-standing experience in enrolling medically-underserved populations."
Much of the money will go to hire people to work in outreach and patient assistance. Sip Mouden, CEO of Community Health Centers of Arkansas, said a big part of the job will be getting good, reliable information out to people.
"Many many many folks really don’t understand what options they’ve got," she declared. "Our folks will have the responsibility to go out and explain what their opportunities and options are."
Arkansas’s implementation will be a little different than most. Other states are expanding Medicaid to cover families up to one-and-a-third-times the poverty line. But Arkansas will use the same money to route them through the new on-line private insurance exchanges being set up as part of the reform.
Details on Arkansas funding are at HRSA.gov.