By: Beau Boughamer
The long holiday weekend brought a cornucopia of health center news stories! A sampling:
The most high-profile piece originated in Connecticut. The Connecticut Post ran a lengthy feature on the Nutmeg State’s health centers — a piece that was redistributed to other sources nationally via McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. There’s also video!
According to Ludwig Spinelli, president and chief operating officer for Optimus, community health centers serve more than 20 million people nationwide. … The centers, which receive federal and state funds, have to adhere to strict federal guidelines and their clients comprise half the membership of their boards of directors. Most of their funding, however, is from patient billing. Katherine Yacavone, president and CEO of Southwest, said a stereotype persists that community health centers are solely for “poor people.” “Quite the contrary, we provide superior care to everyone regardless of their status,” she said. “We’re not some lower level life forms. We’ve been the best kept secret since the 1960s.” Spinelli said the stereotype might exist because of the health centers’ locations and their unique mission. “We are in areas of greatest need,” he said. “The care is as good as any private practice, but we have a different mission. No one gets turned away.” Uninsured and low-income clients are placed on discounted fee schedules. Community health centers will have a vital role in any health-care reform bill, said U.S. Rep Jim Himes, D-4, who has hosted numerous health-care information sessions throughout the region. “The health-care reform bill recognizes that community health centers are often the only source of care for low-income people and certainly their only source of preventive care,” he said.
The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif. reported that the Redwood Community Health Coalition and Kaiser Permanente have stepped forward to save a program that serves low-income uninsured children in Sonoma County.
[The Healthy Kids Program] had been threatened with near-extinction since last summer due to state budget cuts that sought to save money by gradually eliminating health coverage to more and more children. However, the county Department of Health Services has arranged to shift administrative responsibility for the program to the Redwood Community Health Coalition, an agency that links 15 health centers and clinics in Sonoma, Napa, Marin and Yolo counties. Under the plan, uninsured children qualifying for health services will get them delivered either at the clinics or at Kaiser Permanente medical offices.
Family Nurse Practitioner Chad Speth says the Cache Valley, Bear Lake and new Hyrum Community Health Centers take a holistic approach to maintaining a healthy community. Speth works full time at the new Hyrum location but, like the other professionals, he also rotates when needed to the other centers. On KVNU’s Crosstalk show Tuesday Speth said complete medical services are available and the cost is based on a person’s ability to pay. “We have a sliding fee scale so we’re able to look at a patient’s income, if they’re uninsured, if they’re under-insured and then tailor their billing to their income,” Speth explained. “They often qualify for reduced payment programs. But we also take insurances. For people who have insurance we take a variety of insurance programs.”
‘Just so you’ll know, health care is rationed now’ was the to-the-point-headline that appeared atop a great letter by Donald Bley, CEO of Community Health Center of the Rappahannock Region, advocating health reform. It appeared in the Fredericksburg, Va. Free Lance-Star.
The author’s concern for the 41,000 annual breast cancer deaths is commendable, and one can only hope that the editors have a similar concern for the 45,000 annual deaths attributed to rationing of health care based on lack of access to health insurance. More than 75 percent of the patients seen at the Community Health Center of the Rappahannock Region have no health insurance at all. For these people, health care is already severely–potentially fatally–rationed.