Massachusetts Health centers receive much-needed funding to educate uninsured

Martin Desmarais | 7/24/2013, 11:18 a.m.

While the Whittier Street Health Center has people on staff who can handle questions about health insurance, the new financial counselor will go out into the community to do outreach and education.

“This person will be there and they have already been trained on how to navigate the system,” said Williams. “They will also work with people on benefits assistance.”

Boston Health Grants

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $3.4 million in grant money to Massachusetts health centers to help enroll the uninsured in new programs that are part of the Affordable Care Act. Most of the health centers in Boston received significant funding.

Per Center Funding

Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program...$91,153

Codman Square Health Center...$97,049

Dimock Community Health Center...$90,933

Dorchester House Multi-Service Center...$89,470

East Boston Neighborhood Health Center...$253,028

Fenway Community Health Center...$96,422

Harbor Health Services...$119,467

Massa League of Community Health...$73,784

Mattapan Community Health Center...$78,261

North End Community Health Center...$75, 214

South Boston Community Health Center...$78,580

South Cove Community Health Center...$105,794

Whittier Street Health Center...$117,157

Williams says it is critical to have someone with accounting and business knowledge who can walk people through what the best health insurance options are and weigh the influence of factors such as income and household size. The plan is for this financial counselor to be out in the community during education outreach with a laptop right in front of them and the ability to get people enrolled on the spot.

“This is a really good resource to have,” Williams added. “Having someone who is trained to help you navigate enrollment in the insurance process is helpful for them.”

Williams said this kind of assistance has been “the missing piece” when it comes to the health insurance assistance offered by community health centers such as Whittier Street.

She was also very encouraged about the amount of grant money that was awarded. According to her, the total was determined by a formula used during the application process, but she said Whittier Street received the maximum amount it could with $117,157. She believes that this shows the government is committed to helping the Affordable Care Act be successful.

However, she admitted one issue will be the continuation of such services once the one-year grant is up. “The challenge that happens with this funding is that it is only one year and we need to make sure we use the funding wisely to make sure we expand it beyond that,” said Williams. She said if the grant money helps the center continue to grow and increase the number of people that use it the increased revenue can help sustain the insurance-education efforts.

“It is a good investment and good timing for us. We moved to our new building last year and we are ramping up,” Williams said. “People are still very confused about what they are eligible for. Being able to help with that will have a big impact and is huge for community.”