Health Center News

NACHC CHI Conference Highlights and Other News

wiltzIt has been a few days since the NACHC 2014 Community Health Institute (CHI) and EXPO wrapped up and everyone has gone home armed with new information and ideas. The advantage of the CHI is that thousands of health center leaders from around the country gather under one roof to network, exchange ideas, and hear from a variety of experts with trainings and education sessions. And there were a lot of sessions to choose from.

For instance, we sat in on a very good session about assessing the challenges and best practices from the last round of open enrollment. We learned from Leticia Cazares, Director of Outreach at San Ysidro Health Center in California, that one of the biggest challenges was misinformation and myths perpetuated in the media and elsewhere that often confused patients. Also, many health center patients did not realize that they could enroll in Medicaid throughout the year (if they qualified) or were eligible to enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace through special enrollment periods as a result of certain life events.

The good news is open enrollment begins again on November 15 and already health centers are gearing up to assist patients with their insurance options. Also, we learned that Navigators and Certified Application Counselors have to be recertified every year and that certification expires in August for staff and volunteers of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) 2013 Navigator grantees in the Federally-Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) who completed training during the 2013-2014 grant period. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is recommending health centers contact either their primary care association or state marketplace in non-FFM states to learn about the O&E assistance worker training requirements in their states. That is important information for health centers to know. As we’ve noted before, over 5 million people received enrollment assistance at their local health center to help them access coverage through the Affordable Care Act. This go around–the stakes are even higher as the enrollment season is shorter and the expectations are higher.

But back to the highlights…NACHC’s general sessions are a favorite for its information, speakers, and the nod to health center stars. The NACHC Community HealthCare Awards of Excellence are a regular feature.  This year’s honorees distinguished themselves in many aspects of healthcare delivery–innovation, research, public service, finance, education and training, and much more.

NACHC also honored Direct Relief, a humanitarian medical aid organization, for its unwavering commitment to supporting health centers across the United States that care for the nation’s most vulnerable people [see press release].

In his keynote address before accepting the award Direct Relief President and CEO Thomas Tighe told the audience, “there is no other nonprofit that has done what you do, as well as you do.”

Also a steady favorite at the general sessions is the update from HRSA.  Associate Administrator Jim Macrae brought health center leaders up-to-date on key health center issues just as the Department of Health and Human Services announced $35.7 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 147 health centers in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to support patient-centered medical homes (PCMH) through new construction and facility renovations. Nearly 50 percent of health centers have had at least one site recognized as a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH), and this latest investment will no doubt push those numbers higher.

Stay tuned for the next issue of the Community Health Forum, which will have a more detailed follow up about the 2014 NACHC CHI!