Many people don't know much about the health insurance exchange, a problem that Oklahoma's community health centers will soon tackle.
The centers, also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers, received $1.7 million this week to help about 44,000 Oklahomans enroll into health insurance coverage and hire 38 workers.
Community health centers provide primary medical, dental and behavioral health services to more than 147,000 residents, according to the Oklahoma Primary Care Association.
The health insurance exchanges, also called health insurance marketplaces, will serve as a place where people who don't have access to affordable employer insurance can buy coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Exchanges were created through the Affordable Care Act, the federal health care law also known as Obamacare.
States have the option of setting up their own exchanges. Gov. Mary Fallin has said Oklahoma will not set up its own exchange, and therefore, residents will use an exchange set up through the federal government to purchase coverage.
The grant money was issued through the Health Resources and Services Administration, a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that focuses its efforts on improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured or medically vulnerable.
Eighteen community health organizations that operate 73 sites will use the money to help their patients understand what their coverage options are.
Judy Grant, interim executive director of Oklahoma Primary Care Association, said staff members who provide assistance will serve as independent voices and will not represent any insurance company.
One of the key concerns has been that many people who would qualify for insurance under the exchange don't know anything about the program. About half of Americans say they do not have enough information about the health reform law to understand how it will impact their own family, a share that rises among the uninsured and low-income households, according to a poll conducted through the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Grant said signing up for insurance, regardless of whether a person has done it before, can be overwhelming.
Many of the people who qualify for coverage under the health insurance exchange are the “working poor” and typically work for employers who cannot afford to offer health insurance, she said.
“It's not something that all Oklahomans embrace, but the fact of the matter is — it's here, and we want Oklahomans to know what their choices are and the best routes to take, and that is what this funding is designed to do,” Grant said.
... It's here, and we want Oklahomans to know what their choices are and the best routes to take, and that is what this funding is designed to do.”
Judy Grant, interim executive director of Oklahoma Primary Care Association