As time inches closer to the date when all Americans will be required to be insured, the Obama Administration has kicked into overdrive its efforts to educate and provide Americans with the resources they need to maximize their benefits.
Today, President Obama will present and promote how the Affordable Care Act has helped women by appearing on stage with women who have benefited from Obamacare and before an audience of women’s support organizations.
Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it will award $150 million dollar in grants to about 1,200 community health centers at nearly 9,000 sites to help them reach out to and enroll qualified Americans among the 21 million patients they serve each year.
Health centers have extensive experience providing eligibility assistance to patients, are providing care in communities across the Nation, and are well-positioned to support enrollment efforts,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. “Investing in health centers for outreach and enrollment assistance provides one more way the Obama administration is helping consumers understand their options and enroll in affordable coverage.”
The funds will be used to hire new staff, train existing and implement outreach efforts.
And just last week, responding to critics, the administration shortened the application for Affordable Care Act benefits from 21 to 3 pages.
African and Latino Americans are expected to benefit greatly. Twenty percent of African American Households and over 30% of Hispanics are uninsured.
And because this group maked up a bulk of the uninsured, those who do not qualify for healthcare and will have to acquire it by law on their own will be able to get the benefit of new transparency data HHS released yesterday.
The information breaks down healthcare costs and disparities across the nation. The data was posted on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s (CMS) website and includes information useful for comparing the charges for services that may be provided during the 100 most common Medicare inpatient stays.
It reveals, for example, that the national average of certain joint replacements is $50,116 because of variances where it cost $36,594 in Minneapolis, Minnesota; but $53,139 in Birmingham, Alabama. And even within those states, data showed certain charges for services differed depending on the region where the hospital was located: $22,788 to $58,683 in Minneapolis and $23,640 to $141,035 in Birmingham.
The data could be a useful tool in enabling consumers to properly shop around for a quality health care institution to provide a service at a cost most affordable to them.
Over the next few weeks, think tanks, the media and consumer organizations will likely crunch the information to look for trends. In the meantime, the data and website could be useful for helping consumers make decisions about where to get a procedure done.
Consumers may realize that in some instances the cost of flying to and paying for accommodations for family in a cheaper region of the state or country for a service or procedure would be well worth it compared to paying an exponentially higher cost for the same service at a hospital closer to home.