La Casa gets government grant

By Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

ccalloway@pntonline.com

As an outreach worker for La Casa Family Health Center, Sonia Armijo says it’s her job to help the uninsured find coverage.

The hard part is when she has to tell them there’s not much she can do despite exploring every avenue.

“By all means, you try every link you have in the community to get them financial help. It’s kind of a feeling of defeat when you can’t help that person,” Armijo said. “But that’s what we’re supposed to do. We try to help them in any way we can.”

Helps is on the way.

According to La Casa CEO Seferino Montano, La Casa was granted a little more than $144,000 from the Health Resources and Services Administration, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to hire three more outreach workers at La Casa to enroll people in new affordable health coverage options that will go into effect on Oct. 1 , bringing La Casa’s total to six.

The grant money is part of a larger $2.2 million initiative to employ workers across the state to help New Mexicans in understanding their coverage options through the new Health Insurance Marketplace, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, determining their eligibility and what financial help they can get. La Casa’s new employees will serve in the areas of Portales, Clovis and Roswell.

Montano estimates 40 percent of the patients seen at La Casa to be uninsured, about double the state average. He estimates the uninsured population of Roosevelt, Curry, Chaves and Lincoln counties to be at 30,000.

He plans to tackle those numbers with the expansion of the insurance programs and the additional help from outreach workers.

Medicaid will be expanded to adults ages 19-64 who are under 138 percent of the poverty level, according to Montano.

For those who fall above 138 percent of the poverty line, Montano says assistance will be provided to them to find coverage that fits their need.

“They will have the ability to select the coverage they can afford and we will continue to assist them,” Montano said. “We will provide information down the road on how they can contact the people they need to. We will guide them throughout the process and do whatever we can to get them insured.”

Armijo says she often gets referrals for people who need extra help for specialty doctors and lab work who can’t afford it.

Her goal is to get insurance to the people that miss out on treatment because of their inability to pay.

“We’re ready and there’s a need,” Armijo said. “I think this is really going to help people in need. When you start seeing more people covered, you’ll see an increase in people living longer and living healthier.”

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