As delays pile up in the implementation of components of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has awarded $150 million to the nation’s health care centers as part of an outreach and enrollment program for patients with low incomes.
The grants will help centers provide advice regarding the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, and how it will affect people’s current health coverage as well as those who are currently uninsured.
New York state received $7.24 million in funding, with health centers located in the upstate region set to receive close to $1.3 million.
At many upstate health care centers the funding will go toward training staff members to educate the community and assist people in the enrollment process.
Neighborhood Health Center in Buffalo has been preparing for more than a year for the rollout of the ACA.
The organization serves poor and low income patients and has already invested $500,000 in federal funds to make waiting area and building improvements at their oldest facilities.
The additional $75,000 announced earlier this month will enable the center to hire and train new staff members in the ACA process, making the transition more manageable.
Executive Director Joanne Haefner says she anticipates one major outcome of the ACA is that it’ll get more people to focus on prevention.
“More people might enter into primary care to get a preventative wellness visit, which is a great thing for the cost of healthcare," Haefner said. "It costs way less for us to prevent something or help someone to see a healthcare risk than it does to wait until they're ill or injured and need chronic disease care.”
Haefner says prevention would also help reduce hospital and emergency room wait times.
In Rochester, Chuck Albanese, director of community services at the Unity Health System, agrees prevention will be a key benefit.
He says emergency rooms are overflowing because a lack of health insurance in underserved communities often translates to a lack of primary care.
“This will open up access to, obviously insurance, but also health care as well," Albanese said. "A lot of folks that are underserved or homeless, they don’t access health care until it’s late stage and it’s an emergency room visit which could turn into a hospital admission."
He says Unity plans to collaborate with two other Rochester centers that received funding to hold information sessions and directly assist at least 900 people enrolling in the new insurance schemes.
Albanese says there are bound to be bumps in the road, but he’s hopeful this funding will help health care centers throughout the upstate region reach a good portion of the community in coming months.
The HRSA estimates that almost 23 percent of patients served by New York state’s health care centers are currently uninsured.
Labeled as Outreach and Enrollment Assistance:
...supplemental funding is to support health centers in raising awareness of affordable insurance options and providing eligibility and enrollment assistance to uninsured patients of health centers and residents in their approved service areas.
Speaking in Arizona last week, the Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, said, “Investing in health centers means that people in neighborhoods and towns across the country have one more resource to help them understand their insurance options and enroll in affordable coverage.”
The funding formula has a $55,000 base, including one-time expenditures. The balance of the grant amount is calculated using the proportion of uninsured patients on the grantees' rolls according to the 2012 figures from the HRSA. Here is a summary of the upstate allocations.
THE CHAUTAUQUA CENTER
COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER OF BUFFALO, INC.
ANTHONY L JORDAN HEALTH CORP
FINGER LAKES MIGRANT HEALTH CARE
FAMILY HEALTH NETWORK OF CENTRAL NEW YORK, INC.
NORTH COUNTRY CHILDREN'S CLINIC, INC.
NORTHERN OSWEGO COUNTY HEALTH SERVICES, INC.
NORTHWEST BUFFALO COMMUNITY HEALTH CARE CENTER
OAK ORCHARD COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER, INC.
ROCHESTER PRIMARY CARE NETWORK
SCHENECTADY FAMILY HEALTH SERVICES, INC
SOUTHERN TIER COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER NETWORK
SYRACUSE COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER, INC.
UNITED CEREBRAL PALSY ASSOCIATION OF THE NORTH COUNTRY, INC.
UNITY HOSPITAL OF ROCHESTER