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Obama offers funding to help communities understand Obamacare
By Jen Christensen, CNN
updated 5:32 PM EDT, Thu July 11, 2013

• $150 million in grants will help medical centers spread the word about Obamacare
• 22 million Americans use community health centers for medical treatment
• For millions, Obamacare will be the first time they’ve ever had health insurance
(CNN) — Earl Lane, 35, used to have a bad habit he thinks too many American men share: He never went to the doctor. Lane made decent money working at the popcorn plant near Marion, Indiana, but his job didn’t come with health benefits. A doctor’s visit was way out of his price range — or so he thought. A family member was on the board of the Indiana Health Centers. She told him he should at least get a physical there. The center charges patients on a sliding scale based on a patient’s income. Eventually, Lane gave into family pressure. “And it’s a good thing I did. Going to the center saved my life. It was truly a blessing,” Lane said. “The doctor tested my triglycerides, and then he tested them again because he just couldn’t believe the number. He kept asking ‘Are you sure you feel OK?’ ” The test registered Lane’s triglycerides in the 2,000 range. A healthy person’s numbers are supposed to be around 150 mg/dl. An extremely high triglyceride number like Lane’s can be a sign of type 2 diabetes. Further tests showed Lane was diabetic — dangerously so.

“I praise God that He keeps His Hand on me and in this case His Hand came through the Indiana Health Centers,” Lane said. Community health centers that qualify for federal funding could help some 22 million Americans, many of whom are uninsured. The centers often provide medical, mental health and dental services. For many it’s the only access to medical care they have outside of an expensive emergency room visit. And now these centers are going to play an even bigger role in helping people get access to care.

Earl Lane says the Indiana health center he visited in 
Marion, Indiana saved his life.

The Obama administration announced Wednesday its first big push to help educate uninsured people about the health coverage they’ll qualify for under Obamacare. The health care law expands who is eligible for Medicaid and makes insurance available to people who wouldn’t have qualified before because of pre-existing conditions.

Starting next January, all Americans must have health insurance or face a financial penalty. Open enrollment for state-based health exchanges that will provide this more affordable coverage will start in October.

The Obama administration’s education effort comes in the form of $150 million. Grants will go to 1,159 community health centers that are spread out through all 50 states. Health centers will use these new federal grants to create bilingual education materials about changes in the law. Money will go to training so that medical staff knows how to sign patients up for insurance. Funding will also pay to hire some 2,900 additional workers who will do specific community outreach. Polls show a large percentage of Americans don’t know about the law or how it works. The Obama administration thinks these health centers can make a huge impact in spreading the word.