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Utah healthcare plans move forward

Federal healthcare reform might still be controversial, but plans to implement it are moving ahead.

Utah's community health centers have been enlisted to help get people signed up for health insurance coverage - something required of most Americans by next year under the Affordable Care Act.

More than $1.3 million is coming to the state to hire new outreach experts and boost technology.

Alan Pruhs, executive director of the Association for Utah Community Health, said many Utah families would benefit from having health insurance - but either their employers don't offer it, or workers can't afford it.

"Right now, we're serving about 115,000 patients across the health centers in Utah," he says. "Sixty-thousand of those are uninsured individuals. And then, 98 percent of all of the patients that we're serving are working poor households, living at below 200 percent of federal poverty level."

Statewide, there are 11 community health centers with 42 locations. Pruhs says people will be able to learn about private coverage, CHIP coverage for children, and some Medicaid insurance. The latter could be limited in Utah, because the state has not accepted federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage options.

Utah lawmakers have for the most part been opposed to the healthcare reform efforts, but Pruhs says the community health centers are focusing on the patients, not the politics.

"You know, our goal is simply to react to legislation that's been passed," he says, "and provide a resource and help to the individuals who are currently uninsured, who may not feel the same way about, you know, affordable options to receive that type of coverage."

Some U.S. House members are still trying to pass legislation to cancel federal health care reforms, taking issue with costs and the requirement that most people purchase coverage. Nonetheless, this influx of federal dollars is expected to help more than 17,000 Utahns sign up for and become familiar with their new health coverage, and to create 24 new jobs.