West Virginia's health centers are hiring 40 staff
members to help enroll the uninsured population in Medicaid or the state's
health insurance marketplace beginning in October.
The state's 27 health centers, which have 226 sites across the state, received $1.7 million in federal funding to hire and train the workers, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"The health centers, at a minimum, hired one additional person," said Louise Reese, chief executive officer of the West Virginia Primary Care Association. "The larger ones may have requested enough funding to employ more than one at main location or [to do] outreach work in the community."
Health center staff must be trained under the federal requirements to become certified application counselors in order to help with enrollment in Medicaid and the health insurance exchange beginning Oct. 1.
"We are waiting for the official training program to be released to coordinate with (the federal Health Resources and Services Administration) to be sure the new staff are trained."
The health centers in West Virginia service approximately 91,000 uninsured state residents, or about the same amount that officials say will qualify for the state's expanded Medicaid program, Reese said.
"A significant number of uninsured are people are already being seen [at the health care centers]," Reese said. "We assume the health centers will play a large part in educating [uninsured people] enrolling them because they're already their patients."
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced in early May that the state would expand Medicaid to those who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or $32,500 for a family of four. States had the option to expand the programs under the new health care law.
West Virginians for Affordable Care and the state's local Department of Health and Human Resources offices will also be helping reach out to the state's uninsured population to get people enrolled, Reese said.
The report, released Wednesday by the DHHS, outlines the benefit the Affordable Care Act has had in West Virginia.
To date, the federal government has given nearly $53 million to health centers in the West Virginia as a part of the health care law, according to the report.
The grants are intended to support health center operations, open more centers, expand services and support improvement projects.
According to the report, other benefits to the state from the ACA include:
--An investment in the primary care workforce via the National Health Service Corps, which repays student loans and gives scholarships to primary doctors, dentists, physicians assistants and others who practice in areas where there are few primary care doctors. Over a four-year span, the number of primary care corps clinicians in West Virginia grew from 32 to 121 in 2012, according to the report.
--About $10.6 million in grants to implement the state's health insurance exchange.
--As of March 2012, the state had received $9.9 million in grants from the Prevention and Public Health Fund to support effective state policies.
Reach Lori Kersey at email@example.com or 304-348-1240.
(c)2013 The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, W.Va.)
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