The federal government will send $678,562 to community health centers in Nebraska to help patients navigate the insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act.
The four community health centers in far western Iowa will receive $374,941 from the federal government for the same purpose.
Nebraska has two federal community health centers in Omaha — the Charles Drew Health Center in north Omaha and OneWorld Community Health Centers in South Omaha. Others are in Lincoln, Norfolk, Columbus and Gering.
Federal community health centers in western Iowa are in Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Sioux Center and Storm Lake.
The money will enable the Nebraska health centers to hire 13 workers to help people enroll in affordable insurance plans. Each center in Nebraska except OneWorld will hire two employees. OneWorld will hire three, the Health Center Association of Nebraska said.
“It's tremendous news because it's a huge undertaking to get people enrolled,” said Robbie Adams, spokeswoman for the state association in Nebraska.
The marketplaces in each state, or exchanges, are generally websites that one can visit to explore insurance options under the Affordable Care Act. Those with low enough incomes may be directed to Medicaid. The marketplaces are expected to be online Oct. 1.
Community health centers provide medical care to a large number of uninsured patients, but they also serve patients with insurance.
The Affordable Care Act previously distributed funds to help OneWorld build two new facilities on its South Omaha campus and to help open a west Omaha clinic. The Charles Drew center in north Omaha received money to open part-time clinics in four Omaha Housing Authority facilities.
Richard Brown, chief executive officer of the Charles Drew center, said the new money would help him serve patients better.
“We're glad to receive the funding to provide outreach and enrollment,” Brown said, “and we're looking forward to doing all that we can to make sure that those who are uninsured gain information ... and that we get them signed up.”