WASHINGTON, (UPI) — A new plan will help uninsured Americans get health coverage, the White House said, as President Obama planned Friday to promote healthcare reform to women.
The new $150 million program will fund some 1,200 community health centers to hire and train workers to help people sign up for health insurance through healthcare reform’s new online marketplaces where people and small businesses can shop for private health plans, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.
The centers operate nearly 9,000 service delivery sites nationwide and serve some 21 million patients a year, the department said.
The program money, coming from an $11 billion community health center budget, will also pay for outreach to raise awareness about new healthcare options to people who might not know the details, Sebelius said.
About half of Americans say they still don’t understand what 2010’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act actually does, an April survey by the non-partisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found, with four in 10 Americans unaware the act is still the law of the land.
“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,” Sebelius said.
Supplementing the outreach, Sebelius and other officials will travel the country to promote enrollment this summer as part of a larger public education campaign, the secretary said.
Her announcement came as Obama planned to promote the benefits of healthcare reform at a White House event for women’s organizations two days before Mother’s Day.
Obama is expected to speak at the event at 2:40 p.m., giving details about how the Affordable Care Act has helped “the health, lives and pocketbooks of women and their families,” the White House said Thursday night.
The Washington Examiner quoted a White House official as saying Obama would say his signature legislative achievement has stopped insurance companies from denying health coverage for children, increased access to mammograms and birth control, and increased the number of children who can stay on their parents’ plans.
“Mothers are the No. 1 validator for the young and uninsured and will be critical in the effort to encourage their kids to enroll for insurance in the fall,” the official said.
Obama acknowledged last week some people are uneasy about the law that represents the most significant government expansion and regulatory overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.
“I think that any time you’re implementing something big, there’s going to be people who are nervous and anxious about is it going to get done, until it’s actually done,” Obama told a news conference April 30.
“And for the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, they’re already experiencing most of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act even if they don’t know it,” Obama said.
“Their insurance is more secure. Insurance companies can’t drop them for bad reasons. Their kids are able to stay on their health insurance until they’re 26 years old. They’re getting free preventive care,” he said.
At the same time House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said they would boycott a healthcare-reform committee charged with finding Medicare savings under the act without hurting coverage or quality.
The GOP leaders said in a letter to Obama Thursday they would not participate in picking members of the 15-member committee called the Independent Payment Advisory Board.
“We believe Congress should repeal IPAB, just as we believe we ought to repeal the entire healthcare law,” Boehner and McConnell said in the letter.
Boehner said separately he would schedule a vote for next week to give new GOP House members a chance to formally register their disapproval of healthcare reform.
“We’ve got 70 new members who have not had an opportunity to vote on the president’s healthcare law,” Boehner said. “Obamacare is going to drive up the cost of healthcare. It is going to drive up the cost of health insurance and make it harder for small businesses to hire workers.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney slammed Boehner for planning the new vote.
“It just demonstrates again how out of touch with what the American people want the House Republicans have become,” Carney told reporters Thursday. “Instead of focusing on measures that could help us invest in innovation and manufacturing and job creation, instead of focusing on commonsense efforts to reduce our deficit in a balanced way, House Republicans are voting again to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“Shockingly, John Boehner said two days after the election that Obamacare was law and that they would have to re-evaluate their efforts to repeal it,” he said. “I guess he was convinced to change his mind by elements of his caucus yet again.”
Americans are “tired of efforts by Republicans to re-fight the political battles of the past,” Carney added.