On July 10, Community Health Center of Fort Dodge received a $73,663 federal grant to pay for helping uninsured residents get signed up for coverage options under the federal health care reform law.
With the grant, Community Health was able to hire an outreach/enrollment specialist - a position designed in part to assist one-on-one those who are unsure of their abilities to complete the necessary signing-up processes to receive health insurance.
Well-publicized difficulties with the law's implementation, including serious technological problems with Healthcare.gov, the government-operated health care exchange website, have made some people reluctant to move forward on their own, said Sherry Carlson, CHC's outreach/enrollment specialist.
"If people can sit down and see somebody face-to-face, they can be a whole lot more relaxed about getting enrolled and giving up information," said Carlson.
Since beginning in the position in September, Carlson has helped approximately 75 people sign up for health insurance.
Though her position is administered by CHC, Carlson's services are available to everyone in the region, regardless of whether or not they are patients of the center, located at 126 N. 10th St. in Fort Dodge. Anyone may call to make an appointment with Carlson for assistance.
"With the grant, we're working to get everybody in our service area access to information," said Renae Kruckenberg, CHC's acting chief executive officer.
Throughout this service area, which includes Webster, Hamilton, Humboldt, Wright, Pocahontas, Calhoun and Kossuth counties, Carlson and CHC have undertaken a series of educational events open to the public designed to answer any questions people may have. Another event in the series is planned for Dec. 12 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Triton Room at Iowa Central Community College.
"We're working on outreach and inreach with people who are being transferred over to new programs," Carlson said.
A native of Austin, Texas, Carlson said she has spent her most of her career in various positions in the medical field, including work as a paramedic.
The Humboldt resident most recently worked as outreach specialist for Upper Des Moines Opportunity Inc.
Established in 2006, CHC provides comprehensive medical services for men, women and children. The center has provided dental care since 2009.
Though CHC is the successor to several area free clinics, 89 percent of the center's patients are covered by some form of medical insurance, according to Kruckenberg.