Thank you to everyone who attended, planned, and participated in the NACHC P & I last week! This was a really exciting year for this national conference, and the NACHC community really came together to make great things happen. Among the really exciting events that took place during the P & I was the passing of the Continuing Resolution (CR). The CR cleared the House and Senate even as our dedicated advocates were walking the halls of Congress, meeting with their Representatives. The CR means that health centers can continue to expand, but also receive some support for their existing operations. For details, you can check out NACHC’s press release in response to the passage of the CR by visiting this link.
Also, thank you to all those who participated in our Capitol Hill Photo Twitter Contest. It was a great success (over 40 photos were collected) and many enjoyed seeing the photos of Community Health Center leaders advocating on behalf of their communities and patients. You can see them on our Facebook page. Kerry Smith from Georgia won the contest with 10+ retweets of her photo with Congressman Isakson.
The conference general session offered information form HRSA, CMS, and an announcement from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI). Forum attendees heard from HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield who offered insights into the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) impacts on the health care system on its three year anniversary, including:
- In 2011 four out of five of all health centers adopted health information technology (HIT);
- ACA also enhanced the teaching health center program—training primary care clinicians in community based settings. Teaching health centers produce primary care clinicians that are three to four times more likely to serve in community based settings than those trained in hospitals. In 2012 the program supported 137 new medical residents and plans to double that number in 2013;
- Consumers have new insurance protections and no longer have to worry about loss of insurance because of lifetime expenditure caps, and young adults can stay on their parent’s insurance until the age of 26;
- 71 million Americans with private insurance can now access preventative care without out of pocket expenses.
Wakefield also recognized that Community Health Centers continue to be critical to the country’s health system because they are “accessible, dependable sources of primary care for underserved communities,” and asked Community Health Centers to:
- Work with potential qualified health plans (private health insurance plans approved to be marketed through the health insurance market place in 2014), and Medicaid managed care plans to explore joining their provider networks in order to be sure that no matter what plan patients select they can continue to access care at your local health center;
- Educate current patients and the broader community about what is going to be available for them. According to a recent study those who will benefit the most from the ACA are unaware—only 22 percent are aware of the benefits they will gain;
- Expect increase in demand and additional resources to meet that demand.
Finally, Wakefield asked Community Health Centers to continue to target hires in a way that includes America’s veterans. HRSA and NACHC have partnered to help Community Health Centers hire an average of one veteran per grantee site over the next three years and have a shared goal 8,000 Vets. 10 percent of those hired at Community Health Centers last year where vets.
Following Mary Wakefield was Chiquita W. Brooks-LaSure, Deputy Director, Policy and Regulations for the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The Deputy Director offered attendees an overview of the work being done in preparation for October 1st open enrollment date that will “ensure Americans have quality affordable health insurance.”
According to Brooks-LaSure:
- Almost all regulations are completed–for example market reforms, essential health benefits, and payment notice;
- They are now focusing on operations and there is progress in building the infrastructure necessary to have qualified health plans certified to participate in the market places;
- The data services hub is nearly complete (verifies consumer information that is necessary to determine enrollment);
- The application system, eligibility system, and the shop for coverage are 80 percent complete, and testing is set to begin in the spring;
- 24 states and DC have been conditionally approved to partially or fully operate their own market place;
- Beginning in 2015, and annually, states will continue to have the option to apply to work with CMS or run their own market place;
- They are also actively building a scalable market place that can operate in any state without its own market place.
And last but not least, U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI) announced it will be offering CDFI organizations training and technical assistance to build health center financing and development capacity through the Opportunity Finance Network. Stay tuned for the press release!