Friday, September 18, 2015

qotd: Community health centers seeing more underinsured patients

MPR News
September 16, 2015
At community clinics, underinsured replace uninsured
By Mark Zdechlik

A few years ago, community health clinics routinely offered care to
people with no health insurance. Today, offering care to people who have
insurance — but still can't afford care — is becoming more common.

At the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic in Grand Marais, Minn., more people
coming through the doors have a health plan, as required under the
Affordable Care Act. But the plans with the lowest monthly premiums tend
to have high deductibles.

Clinic CEO Rita Plourde said that for many clients, the problem now is
being underinsured. They have health insurance but cannot afford the
out-of-pocket costs.

In Coon Rapids, Nucleus Clinic gets some referrals from conventional
clinics when patients are having difficulty with out-of-pocket expenses.
Becky Fink, who runs the community reproductive health clinic, said that
many patients with a high deductible health plan find it less expensive
to bypass the insurance and pay cash.

Fink expects the growing demand for subsidized clinic services from
people enrolled in health plans will continue despite the signature
promise of Obamacare.

It's frustrating to see insured people who can't afford to pay for
health care, Fink said. People need to know that the Affordable Care Act
is pushing more people toward community health centers, she said, not
decreasing the need for them.


Comment by Don McCanne

As we celebrate the successes of the Affordable Care Act, it is sobering
to realize that the increasing prevalence of underinsurance is leaving
many patients dependent on community health centers, much as they were
before, when they were uninsured.

It is fortunate that our legislators, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders,
recognized that there would still be a great need for community health
centers and insisted on authorizing funding for these centers.

But wouldn't it be even better if everyone had comprehensive first
dollar coverage? The clinics would no longer be geared to take care of
mostly low-income patients but rather would be transformed into centers
that could appeal to all of us, including specialists who would then
welcome referrals from these centers.

All we need to do is to enact a well-designed single payer national
health program, and the improvements would automatically follow.

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