WASHINGTON - The Obama administration announced Thursday that it would provide millions of dollars to community health centers to help them enroll Americans in health insurance programs next year under the Affordable Care Act.
The move comes as the administration faces growing pressure from Democrats and other supporters of the 2010 law to show how it will get Americans into health plans, a key goal of the landmark legislation.
Insurance companies will be required next year to offer health coverage to all consumers, even if they have pre-existing conditions. Most Americans in turn will be required to have health insurance.
But unless younger and healthier people sign up for coverage, experts fear that health insurance premiums could skyrocket, undermining the law's promise to control health-care costs.
The Obama administration is working with consumer advocates, industry groups, and others to enroll the uninsured next year, but with public ignorance of the law still very high, fears have been growing that the enrollment process will not work.
The nation's approximately 1,200 community health centers, which serve many of America's uninsured, have long been seen as logical allies in the drive to get people health insurance.
"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," Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.
Administration officials said the new funds totaling $150 million would allow health centers to hire more staff and conduct community outreach events and other educational activities.
Last month, the administration made $54 million available to states and private groups so that they could hire new health insurance "navigators." The same concept is being applied to the community health centers.