Chestnut Health Systems is one of more than 40 agencies in Illinois that is applying for federal money to help enroll the uninsured. (Photo courtesy Chestnut Health Systems)
By Eric Stock
BLOOMINGTON - A local behavioral health agency could become federally-appointed experts on the Affordable Care Act.
Chestnut Health Systems of Bloomington has been selected from among more than 40 agencies in Illinois to apply for federal money to help people sign up for insurance under the new health care law.
Chestnut's Central Region Manager, Joan Hartman, said the grant would enable Chestnut to hire an additional full-time staffer to help consumers understand their coverage options. She said Chestnut currently has one employee who handles insurance as one of several tasks.
"It gives us the opportunity to be the local experts - so to speak - in this whole process, so we can then help our patients to best navigate," Hartman said.
The funding was announced Thursday by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The money is part of about $150 million to be distributed nationally to health centers.
The money will allow health centers to hire new staff, train existing staff and conduct community outreach events. Health centers will help consumers understand their coverage options, determine their eligibility and enroll in new affordable health insurance options.
Hartman said the new health insurance options could enable more Chestnut clients to get the medical care they need at its new Family Health Center at 702 W. Chestnut St.
"Because we are trying to create a medical home. All of our clients who are involved in any of our levels of care, any of the services we have, could also potentially be health center patients," Hartman said.
The money is in addition to about $115 million in federal funds to be spent in Illinois for education and outreach around the health care law.
Eric Stock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.