CULMINATION OF “COVER THE UNINSURED WEEK”
Morrison Spotlights Community Health Centers as Options for the Uninsured
During Cover the Uninsured week, State Auditor John Morrison is getting the word out about access to healthcare for Montanans that are uninsured, or lack access to primary healthcare. Some people may not know that there are federally qualified health centers, called Community Health Centers (CHC), all across Montana that serve thousands of uninsured and insured citizens with critical healthcare services every year.
“Montana’s Community Health Centers do a tremendous amount to provide access to quality healthcare and bridge the gap for consumers that don’t have insurance, or have limited access to preventative services on their current insurance plan,” said Morrison. “I want to be sure that folks are aware of these facilities, and to send a message to those Montana families going without health insurance to look into utilizing CHCs as one of their options.”
In Montana, there are currently twelve community health center grantees and seven satellite offices that served over 75,000 patients in 2005. The CHCs are becoming a growing resource for Montana’s uninsured. Montana’s CHCs saw an increase between 14-46% in the number of uninsured patients served between 2001 and 2003.
"These centers help provide care for many uninsured Montanans who otherwise would have had no place to turn to get help," Morrison said. "With more than 170,000 Montanans lacking health insurance, health centers play a critical role in the overall healthcare system by providing a safety net for patients, regardless of their ability to pay."
Health centers deliver preventive and primary care to patients regardless of their ability to pay. Almost half of the patients treated at health centers have no insurance coverage, and others have inadequate coverage. Charges for health care services are set according to income, and fees are not collected from the poorest clients.
The Montana Primary Care Association (MPCA) is a non-profit organization of ambulatory health care providers whose primary purpose is to serve Montana's medically unserved and underserved residents without financial or other discrimination. The types of medical services provided by the CHCs include: primary health care visits, health education, tobacco prevention, disease screening, case management, laboratory services, dental care, pharmacy services, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and social services.
Morrison’s message comes on the heels of a new study by the Commonwealth Foundation “that indicates the number of middle income individuals who lack health insurance is on the rise.”
- Sixty-seven percent of the 48 million adults who were uninsured any time in the past year were in families with at least one working adult.
- The number of adults with annual incomes between $20,000 and $40,000 who were uninsured at some point during the last year rose from 28 percent in 2001 to 41 percent in 2005.
More than 45 million Americans lack health insurance, and 36 million lack access to basic health care, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). The United States government is investing substantial amounts of money in starting new Health Centers, and in expanding existing ones to address the problem of the medically underserved and the uninsured, although in the last year, funding has been reduced. Health Centers provide high-quality primary care in out-patient settings, and employ primary-care physicians, obstetricians, psychiatrists, dentists, pharmacists, mental health workers, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to provide that care.
- Twenty-one percent of both insured and uninsured adults have debt due to medical bills.
“Thousands of Montanans rely on health centers every day to provide the care and services their families need to get better or stay healthy," Morrison said. "These health centers are a model of cost-effective, high quality primary health care for Montana.”
For more information about Montana community health centers log onto www.mtpca.org/mtcenters.htm or call (406) 442-2750.