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MA Health Centers Get $3.4 Million to Reach Out To More Patients

PHOTO: The Brockton Neighborhood Health Center is one of 35 such centers to receive a total of $3,448,106 in federal money to reach out to and enroll uninsured and under-insured Commonwealth residents.
PHOTO: The Brockton Neighborhood Health Center is one of 35 such centers to receive a total of $3,448,106 in federal money to reach out to and enroll uninsured and under-insured Commonwealth residents.
July 11, 2013

BOSTON - The federal government is giving 35 community health centers in the Commonwealth a total of more than $3.4 million to better reach uninsured or under-insured Bay Staters. Nearly 20 percent of patients using the centers last year were without health insurance.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that, with its state health-care reform, the Bay State already had boosted the number of people helped by community centers.

According to Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, executive director of Health Care For All, the new grants are "good news" and will allow a similar recipe to be followed, which she described as "sending folks to do education and outreach into communities in which they currently live or they're working, so that people had a trusted resource to help them navigate the new era of health reform."

She was disappointed, though, in the administration's delaying of the mandate for larger employers to offer health insurance. A similar measure was stripped from the state budget in anticipation of the federal mandate taking effect, and she wants the Governor to act to bring it back.

Whitcomb Slemmer said the Affordable Care Act saw employers agreeing to a shared responsibility to provide insurance and if the federal government isn't pressing that, the state should.

"So now that that provision of the ACA has been delayed it's important that the governor act and veto that part of the bill so that we'll continue to have this shared responsibility," she stated.

In announcing the grants that will allow health centers to employ an estimated 61 workers to help with enrollment and outreach, Mary Wakefield, director of Health Resources and Services Administration, singled out the Commonwealth.

"And if you look at Massachusetts as an example, they really demonstrate the role of health centers in remaining a vital source of primary care for medically-underserved and for uninsured, because after they passed their health reform, health centers saw an increase in patients that were seen," Wakefield said.

A public outreach campaign about the ACA targeted to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking communities is set to begin today at noon at the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council.


Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA