The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has made in important step in implementing the Affordable Care Act by providing $9.8 million to Federally Qualified Community Health Centers (FQHCs) in Texas to help them offer in-person enrollment assistance to uninsured Texans. Nationwide, $150 million is being distributed to FQHCs.
The funding will allow FQHCs to hire and train staff, hold community outreach events, educate consumers about their coverage options and eligibility, and assist them in enrolling in the health insurance options available and affordable to them.
According to Stacey Pogue from the Center for Public Policy Priorities, “Three of four people who will be eligible for coverage through the new Marketplace say they want in-person assistance to help to learn about and enroll in coverage.” This funding for FQHCs will go a long way towards making that happen.
There are close to 70 FQHCs in Texas, representing more than 300 sites in all regions and close to half of Texas counties. About one million Texans make use of FQHCs each year, and about half of them are uninsured. Of particular importance to Texas is the fact that FQHCs do not deny care based on immigration status. They're an indispensable resource, and a great way to reach and work with uninsured Texans.
Read more after the jump.Congressman Gene Green (D – Houston), who represents a district with one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation (43 percent of adults and 26 percent of children), said, “Helping eligible Texans access health insurance coverage is critical, and Federally Qualified Health Centers play an essential role in our healthcare delivery system… By providing them the tools to help enroll their patients, it will ensure that the Affordable Care Act works as it is intended.”
But Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the country, at 28.8 percent and growing. Over 6 million Texans are uninsured. The health exchanges available through the Affordable Care Act will make a big dent, as will the assistance from FQHCs in getting Texans enrolled. But Texas will still likely retain the unfortunate distinction of highest uninsured rate in the nation without Medicaid expansion. Most other states are taking advantage of it, and without it we'll be left even farther behind.
This funding for FQHC outreach is an important step in getting eligible Texans enrolled in health insurance. But we can go even farther by fully implementing the Affordable Care Act – and that means expanding Medicaid too.