Watchdog: Follow the Money

Virginia centers get $2.5 million to promote Obamacare

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Photo - Department of Health and Human Services officials are spending $150 million in a campaign to enroll clients in the Obamacare health insurance program, despite steadily increasing public dissatisfaction with the program. Above, Rep. Steve King, R-IA, speaks to a January 2013 Capitol Hil rally of Obamacare opponents. (AP Photo)
Department of Health and Human Services officials are spending $150 million in a campaign to enroll clients in the Obamacare health insurance program, despite steadily increasing public dissatisfaction with the program. Above, Rep. Steve King, R-IA, speaks to a January 2013 Capitol Hil rally of Obamacare opponents. (AP Photo)
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RICHMOND -- Virginia health centers will receive 22 federal grants totaling more than $2.5 million to enroll clients in Obamacare, part of a $150 million national campaign.

The commonwealth has 24 health centers with 143 sites that served 283,906 patients last year, 39.35 percent of them uninsured, according to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

"With their Outreach and Enrollment funding, the (Virginia) health centers expect to hire 51 additional workers, who will assist 29,313 people with enrollment into affordable health insurance coverage," the division of the Department of Health and Human Services stated in a news release.

The largest recipient is the New Canton-based Central Virginia Health Services, which will get $266,020.

On a per-capita basis, the 51 new hires in Virginia would be paid an average of $49,000. Skeptics say the overhead costs are emblematic of the Obamacare program.

"There are over 1,200 community health centers throughout the country who are getting a chunk of $150 million in outreach funding for the rollout of Obamacare," said Ben Domenech, research fellow at the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank.

"That works out to an average of $125,000 apiece," he said.

Domenech believes the funding is as much political as it is prescriptive.

"They're going to use this money to hire Obamacare promoters, who will push people who come through their doors to sign up for taxpayer-subsidized coverage, whether through Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program or the (private insurance) exchanges," he said.

"They'll also coordinate with local groups and other outlets -- community centers, libraries, churches, and even county fairs -- to make sure they've got someone there promoting Obamacare on the taxpayer dime."

Domenech added, "There are already thousands of employees focused on enrolling people in Medicaid and CHIP at these health centers, but HHS wants to double the number, because they understand that the more people they shove into this unsustainable program, the harder it will be to repeal."

The administration announced last week that it was delaying for one year (until 2015) the mandate that employers provide health insurance for their workers.

On July 11, a federal appeals court threw out a Liberty University lawsuit challenging both the Obamacare employer mandate and its contraception coverage requirements.

A three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law did not violate the religious freedoms of the Lynchburg school founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Kenric Ward is a national reporter and Virginia bureau chief for Watchdog.org, which is affiliated with the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

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