Leaders celebrate community health centers, anticipate Obamacare - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Leaders celebrate community health centers, anticipate Obamacare

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act, often called "Obamacare," begins in less than five months. Open enrollment is in less than two months. Local leaders are working to get Chattanoogans educated on it.

Health and political leaders on the local and state level kicked off National Health Centers Week in Chattanooga.

The city has three community health centers that provide care for 36,000 residents a year, half of them at poverty level and many uninsured.

They say they've really been at the forefront of affordable health care for decades and are excited to assist in implementing "Obamacare."

"Thousands of people's lives have been impacted in a positive manner by their affiliation with the centers because they could not afford health care," TN House District 29 Representative JoAnne Favors said.

Local leaders kicked off National Health Centers Week at the center on Doddson Avenue Monday. The city's three centers provide health care for all ages regardless of ability to pay.

"We're a country and all of us need to have access to insurance or some kind of medical care," the center's Interim Director George Ricks said.

Leaders say the community health centers introduced affordable health care more than 40 years ago and look forward to playing a key role in implementing so-called "Obamacare" when it takes effect this January.

"The next step is to ensure that all Americans will get some form of a right under the Affordable Care Act," Chattanooga City Councilman Moses Freeman said.

"This will be a way for you to be ensured of that without having to lose your homes, go bankrupt, and all of that because you do not have healthcare," Rep. Favors said.

Local volunteers will undergo training to help uninsured patients enroll for health coverage. They're asking for more volunteers. Open enrollment begins October 1.

"They'll come to certain sites that will be identified and we're going to go ahead and enroll them so they can begin the process to become insured," volunteer Forestine Haynes said.

They know not everyone supports the Affordable Care Act, but want the tens of thousands of uninsured Chattanoogans to at least learn more about it and consider it.

"The more informed you are, the clearer you are on this subject matter, the better," Haynes said.

Volunteers are planning an "Obamacare" informational forum at the library September 7th at 2 p.m. and will have local doctors and business professionals on hand to answer questions.

Next year the IRS is set to begin levying fines on people who don't have health insurance. Last week, House Republicans pushed through legislation that would prevent that from happening. The measure is expected to be ignored by the democratic-led senate.   

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