HHS Announces New Medicaid Waiver for Free Community Clinics in New Orleans

This just in from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: 

Low-income, uninsured residents of Louisiana, many of whom are still struggling to rebuild their lives five years after Hurricane Katrina, will continue to have access to community health clinics, regardless of their ability to pay, under a program announced today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

             Funding for a system of public and non-profit clinics will flow from a three-year $97.5 million Medicaid demonstration, the “Greater New Orleans Community Health Connection.”  This waiver will replace a post-Katrina stabilization grant set to expire at the end of this month.

 This move is being touted by Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius, as well as local elected officials in Louisiana.

Before Hurricane Katrina struck the New Orleans area, about 90 percent of uninsured residents relied on two public hospitals, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  Both hospitals were damaged by the storm.  Since then, HHS has approved a $100 million Primary Care Access and Stabilization Grant (PCASG) that allowed the greater New Orleans area to expand community-based clinics from 67 prior to the storm to 93.  The clinics provide a full range of services from primary care, behavioral health care and dental care.  To improve access, some health providers operate out of mobile clinics and school-based health centers.

The clinics will continue to operate under and be funded by a new Section 1115 demonstration, which will run until Dec. 31, 2013.  During this period, clinics will work to strengthen their fee-for-service billing capabilities so they will be able to continue obtaining reimbursements from Medicaid and health insurers, and be ready to participate in the insurance exchanges set up under the new Healthcare Reform Bill.

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