NACHC CHI Conference Highlights and Other News

wiltzIt has been a few days since the NACHC 2014 Community Health Institute (CHI) and EXPO wrapped up and everyone has gone home armed with new information and ideas. The advantage of the CHI is that thousands of health center leaders from around the country gather under one roof to network, exchange ideas, and hear from a variety of experts with trainings and education sessions. And there were a lot of sessions to choose from.

For instance, we sat in on a very good session about assessing the challenges and best practices from the last round of open enrollment. We learned from Leticia Cazares, Director of Outreach at San Ysidro Health Center in California, that one of the biggest challenges was misinformation and myths perpetuated in the media and elsewhere that often confused patients. Also, many health center patients did not realize that they could enroll in Medicaid throughout the year (if they qualified) or were eligible to enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace through special enrollment periods as a result of certain life events.

The good news is open enrollment begins again on November 15 and already health centers are gearing up to assist patients with their insurance options. Also, we learned that Navigators and Certified Application Counselors have to be recertified every year and that certification expires in August for staff and volunteers of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) 2013 Navigator grantees in the Federally-Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) who completed training during the 2013-2014 grant period. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is recommending health centers contact either their primary care association or state marketplace in non-FFM states to learn about the O&E assistance worker training requirements in their states. That is important information for health centers to know. As we’ve noted before, over 5 million people received enrollment assistance at their local health center to help them access coverage through the Affordable Care Act. This go around–the stakes are even higher as the enrollment season is shorter and the expectations are higher.

But back to the highlights…NACHC’s general sessions are a favorite for its information, speakers, and the nod to health center stars. The NACHC Community HealthCare Awards of Excellence are a regular feature.  This year’s honorees distinguished themselves in many aspects of healthcare delivery–innovation, research, public service, finance, education and training, and much more.

NACHC also honored Direct Relief, a humanitarian medical aid organization, for its unwavering commitment to supporting health centers across the United States that care for the nation’s most vulnerable people [see press release].

In his keynote address before accepting the award Direct Relief President and CEO Thomas Tighe told the audience, “there is no other nonprofit that has done what you do, as well as you do.”

Also a steady favorite at the general sessions is the update from HRSA.  Associate Administrator Jim Macrae brought health center leaders up-to-date on key health center issues just as the Department of Health and Human Services announced $35.7 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 147 health centers in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to support patient-centered medical homes (PCMH) through new construction and facility renovations. Nearly 50 percent of health centers have had at least one site recognized as a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH), and this latest investment will no doubt push those numbers higher.

Stay tuned for the next issue of the Community Health Forum, which will have a more detailed follow up about the 2014 NACHC CHI!

NACHC CHI 2014 Underway in Sunny San Diego

expo hallThere is a lot of buzz and chatter in the halls as thousands of health center leaders gather for the 2014 NACHC  CHI and EXPO now going on in San Diego.  The education sessions and meetings cover a variety of topics central to the operations of Community Health Centers, which now serve 23 million people, or 1 in 15 people in the US.  A key focus is continuing the value that health centers bring to the healthcare marketplace in terms of clinical quality, access and cost-savings.  NACHC Board Chair Gary Wiltz, MD, touched on those same topics and the importance of operational excellence at yesterday’s General Session, noting that nearly 50 percent of health centers have had at least one site recognized as a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH).

“We are now and will continue to be America’s premier healthcare homes,” Wiltz said in his widely tweeted remarks.

Wiltz also underscored the importance of the health center “playbook,” or the ACCESS plan, even though fiscal challenges do lie ahead.  One of those challenges–and a constant buzz throughout this conference–is the primary care funding cliff. Health centers can face a funding cut of up to 70 percent when mandatory funding from the Affordable Care Act expires after next year. If Congress does not provide a fix, and if no additional states adopt the Medicaid expansion, patient loads at health centers could fall by as much as 25 percent, according to some estimates. NACHC staff have also unveiled new online resources for health centers to help them educate the public, their patients and elected leaders about the issue, with message points, articles, background information and much more.

In terms of information, though, the CHI is overflowing with fresh ideas, data, conversations and strategies that are useful for any healthcare professional.  Wander into an education session and you can find out the latest on outreach and enrollment best practices at CHCs going into the next installment of open enrollment in November. Or you can hear about growing a strong primary care workforce, or boosting oral health access.  Stay tuned as we try to keep you up to date via this blog. And don’t forget to follow the hashtag  on Twitter at #NACHCchi14.

NACHC Gets Ready for Back to School

Employees at the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) got into the back-to-school spirit recently by donating school supplies to the Building Hope Inc. school supplies drive. NACHC’s Community Service Committee (CSC) collected, donated, and sorted backpacks, crayons, color pencils, binders and much more for the organization.  The effort was led by CSC Chair and Founder Sanetra Mitchell, NACHC’s Accounts Payable Manager.

This latest effort was not the first time Mitchell and her colleagues on CSC have successfully organized service drives.  They have also collected coats and blankets for the homeless during the cold winter months, collected Christmas gifts for the local pediatric center, and served up Thanksgiving dinner to the needy.  During a NACHC conference in New Orleans,  CSC also organized busloads of employees to St. Bernard Parish to help rebuild homes flooded after Hurricane Katrina.

CSC has many projects lined up for the coming months.  They are planning to collect baby supplies for  a local health center’s patients, as well as  start winter coat drive for children.  There is also a toiletry drive in the works for a local homeless shelter.

Stay tuned for more updates.

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The 2014 CHI App will Enhance Your Conference Experince!

photo 1photo 2The new and improved mobile application for the 2014 Community Health Institute and Expo is officially available for download via the Apple and Google App stores. The app makes following #NACHCchi14 on Twitter, registering for education sessions, and creating your own personal calendar of workshops is as easy as pushing a button.

Instructions on how to download this free app for Android, Apple, and Blackberry users are as follows:

 

 

How to locate and download the App for the Google Play Store:

Locate:

1. Launch the Google Play Store

2. Search the Event name NACHC CHI 2014 (partial search supplies better results)

3. Tap the event App icon/listing

Download:

1. Tap the Install button

2. Enter Google ID Password and click OK

3. Tap the Accept & Download button

4. App begins downloading and displays on your phone

 

How to locate and download the App for Apple:

Locate:

1. Launch the App Store

2. Search the Event name NACHC CHI 2014 (partial search supplies better results)

3. Tap the event App icon/listing

Download:

1. Tap the Free button (changes to ‘Install App’)

2. Tap Install App

3. Enter Apple ID Password and click OK

4. App begins downloading and displays on your phone

See you in San Diego!

National Health Center Week Day 4

Day four of National Health Center Week 2014 was capped off by very uplifting remarks by Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.  Burwell spoke during yesterday’s NACHC Teleforum and was joined by health center leaders, and NACHC President and CEO Tom Van Coverden. In her remarks Secretary Burwell noted that she  hears a constant refrain about how important health centers are in the U.S. delivery system. Calling health centers “game changers” Burwell also noted that one in 15 Americans now use health centers as their primary care medical home. She added:

“It is my sincere hope that as we work together we will make every week National Health Center Week in terms of what it means to the American people.  Thank you for everything you are doing to get patients covered. You are the anchors of both access and quality on an everyday basis.”

Mary Wakefield, PhD, Administrator for the Health Resources and Services Administration, also praised the work of health centers in providing quality care while simultaneously taking on new responsibilities, such as connecting patients and communities with affordable coverage options. She noted that more than six million people have learned about insurance options and enrolled thanks to their work.  Even while helping to reduce the ranks of the uninsured health centers have continued to meet or exceed national average clinical quality measures and are offering new services.  Most important, Wakefield said that 54 percent of health centers have at least one site recognized as a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH).

Wakefield saved her most eloquent remarks for last, closing with the following observation:

“I think a few years from now when the history is written about how the United States opened its doors to health care services in this country for more of its citizens, and how we here in the United States did the incredibly hard work of building a health care system that was accessible and affordable to everyone regardless of their zip code, or regardless of the balance in their bank account or regardless of the status of their health.  I think when generations from now look back at what needed to be accomplished, and then what was accomplished, it is clear that your work will be recognized as having been absolutely central to these achievements.”

The teleforum call was one of 1,500 events taking place across the country. Stay tuned to this blog for more developments.