HHS Offers $150M To Boost Enrollment in State Health Exchanges
On Thursday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a new $150 million initiative aimed at helping community health centers enroll uninsured patients in the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges, which open for enrollment on Oct. 1, Reuters reports (Morgan, Reuters, 5/9).
The announcement comes amid growing concern from Democrats and other ACA supporters that the Obama administration is not doing enough to educate the public on the law's benefits (Levey, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 5/9).
Details of the New Initiative
Under the initiative, each state will receive a set amount of funding based on its number of community health centers and the state's proportion of uninsured patients. For example, California will receive the most funding, at about $22 million, while North Dakota will receive the least, at $313,467.
The funds will provide each grantee a base of approximately $50,000 to hire and train staff, conduct community outreach efforts and provide in-person assistance to apply for benefits under the law. HHS said it hopes to double the 4,000 community health center employees nationwide who currently are focused on enrollment efforts.
Sebelius Says Community Health Centers Uniquely Positioned To Help With Enrollment
Sebelius said community health centers "have extensive experience providing eligibility assistance to patients ... and are well-positioned to support enrollment efforts," The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 5/9).
According to "Capsules," the nation's 1,200 health centers have a long history of helping patients -- who typically are uninsured, healthy individuals seeking care for relatively minor problems or preventive care -- enroll in Medicaid and CHIP ("Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 5/9).
Federal Officials Say Exchange Implementation Is 'On Track'
In related news, White House and HHS officials working on exchange implementation say they have met their deadlines, tested the exchange system and collected necessary insurance plan information, USA Today reports.
Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, deputy director for policy and operations at CMS' Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, said insurers met last Friday's deadline to download their plan information into the exchange system.
In addition, HHS officials have:
- Tested the federal website for exchanges, finding it can support the expected large volumes of traffic; and
- Launched outreach campaigns aimed at encouraging uninsured individuals to purchase health insurance on the new exchanges.