The Senate has approved a Continuing Resolution bill that boosts funds for Community Health Centers by $207 million. That amount includes $25 million to help health centers cover the costs of caring for a growing patient population. A recent editorial in the Illinois newspaper the Journal Star hit it right on the head in terms of explaining the growing need for primary health care services in rural and urban pockets all over America. That brings us to Heartland Community Health Clinic, in Peoria, which has seen an 1300 percent increase in the patient load in the last three years.
The newspaper notes, “The working poor, the uninsured and the low-income elderly need the same care those with private plans take for granted: dental and vision checkups, disease management, access to prescriptions. The Illinois Primary Health Care Association, of which Heartland is a member, estimates that every grant dollar invested in a qualified health center saves $7 by cutting future costs, including emergency room visits. No matter what the federal deficit looks like after eight years of the Bush administration, the need for community health centers is only going to grow. Heartland’s patient load has gone from 850 to 12,000 since 2004 – a 1,300 percent increase. Hence the need for expansion. About 40 percent of its patients are uninsured, and many of the rest are on Medicaid, which carries its own funding pressures. Meanwhile, Heartland’s $648,000 federal base grant barely covers a fifth of its budget. Its five clinics in Peoria rely on a patchwork of state dollars, private money and in-kind services to stay afloat. Despite these challenges, Heartland is doing an exemplary job of treating people who’ve fallen through the cracks; its cost per uninsured patient is below the national average.”