Obamacare gives Midtown boost

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 12:33 PM

Jamie Lampros

OGDEN — Midtown Community Health Center is one of 11 clinics across the state to receive help through the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act.

On Wednesday, the local clinic was awarded $233,691 in grant funds. The money will go toward helping people enroll in health insurance coverage, said Midtown Community Health Center executive director, Lisa Nichols.

Nichols said there are an estimated 17,000 existing patients and 48,500 community members eligible for Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program or the Health Insurance Marketplace. Midtown will use the funding to meet the needs of these individuals by expanding the role of its staff members to include assistance and enrollment assistance.

“We have 17,000 existing patients who may be eligible for some kind of insurance, so obviously if we can arrange for them to get coverage it helps them to better access health care on a continuous basis,” Nichols said. “So the funding will cover about 6 1/2 staff members. We also plan to reach about 14,000 people and enroll about 4,500.”

Nichols said Midtown has existing partnerships with United Way, emergency departments, school districts, the local mental health authorities, and the Department of Workforce Services to enroll eligible individuals into Medicaid. These partnerships will be strengthened and broadened to include assistance with the Health Insurance marketplace.

In Utah, health centers served 115,410 patients last year, 57 percent of whom were uninsured, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With these funds, which total $1.4 million for the state, the awardees expect to hire 24 additional workers who will assist 17,144 residents with enrollment into affordable health insurance coverage. Nationwide, 1,159 health centers will receive $150 million in grand money.

“This investment will give Utah neighborhoods and towns one more resource to help people understand their insurance options and enroll in affordable coverage,” said Health and Human Resources secretary, Kathleen Sebelius.

The funding will help consumers understand their coverage options in the new Health Insurance Marketplace. They will also help determine an individual’s eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP; any financial help they can get, and enroll them in new affordable health coverage options.

“We hope this will allow us to expand the number of community members we serve,” Nichols said. “We will work with existing patients and help them enroll and understand the health system. We will also go out in both the Weber and Davis communities and identify people we don’t currently serve and work with them about their options for health insurance coverage.”

The community health centers initiative is part of the administration’s larger effort to make applying for health coverage as easy as possible.

The new, consumer-focused HealthCare.gov website and the 24 hour a day consumer call center are available to help Utah residents prepare for open enrollment and ultimately sign up for health coverage. These new tools will help residents understand their coverage options and select a plan best suited for their needs when open enrollment in the new Health Insurance Marketplace begins this coming Oct. 1.

Under the health care law, most U.S. citizens will be required to obtain some form of health coverage next year.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.