No health insurance? No money? No problem!

No health insurance? No money? No problem!

This probably is a foreign concept to most, but this is the reality in which Community Health Centers (CHCs) operate. Every year, 22 million Americans, insured and uninsured alike, seek care at CHCs. Our patients come from all races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds. We see more people experiencing homelessness and patients with HIV than any other provider. And all of these patients can access high quality, comprehensive, coordinated care at a low cost that few can match.

Not only do CHCs provide care to those who otherwise would have no access to healthcare, they benefit local communities in numerous ways. In Des Moines, a child can receive well-child care and immunizations, which help keep preventable disease from spreading in our schools. A woman receives early and effective prenatal care, thus protecting her health and the health of her children. Any patient of any age can access a wide array of medical, dental, and supportive services, including health coaching and behavioral health interventions when needed. CHCs help keep more people out of emergency rooms, thus helping curb the tax burden to citizens and financial strain to our local hospitals. The public health and economic return on investment is given back to the community many times over.

With recent changes in healthcare, these services are even more important. Iowa has admirably come together to expand health care coverage to almost 100,000 more Iowans in desperate need of primary and specialty care. Some of our neighbors have foregone care for many years because they felt they couldn’t afford it. They may have many uncontrolled and even undetected chronic conditions that will be discovered as they enter care. While coverage will help alleviate financial barriers to care, there still will be difficulties associated with copays, navigation of a complex system, and accessing cultural competent providers.

These are challenges that are welcome when compared to health care rationing that disproportionately affected the poor. And we are prepared to meet them—armed with tools of care management, Electronic Medical Records, integrated behavioral health, and clinical pharmacy services. These tools allow us to seek out patients who may need additional care and who have upcoming preventive care items due. They allow us to work with the patients on goals that they choose for themselves and are therefore more likely to maintain and obtain. Patient empowerment to reach a higher quality of life is the ultimate goal for all of us.  Achieving this goal will require the entire community to come together—not only clinics and hospitals, but businesses, governments, and citizens—thus improving the health of Greater Des Moines.

chris-espersenChris Espersen is Quality Director at Primary Health Care, and has been an advocate for vulnerable populations for over 20 years. She received her Masters of Public Health from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
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