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Did you know that America has a community health center association that deals primarily with poor patients who can't pay for exams and treatment? I didn't know about it until recently.  Apparently they take grant money and other contributions to cover their expenses.  Their work stands in stark contrast to the news this summer that "charitable hospitals" provide very little charity care.

Spread across 50 states and all U.S. territories, there are 1,200 Community Health Centers that provide vital primary care to 20 million Americans with limited financial resources.
...
* They serve 20% of low-income, uninsured people.
* 70% of their patients live in poverty.
* They provide comprehensive care, including physical, mental and dental care.
* They save the national health care system between $9.9 billion and $17.6 billion a year by helping patients avoid emergency rooms and making better use of preventive services.

- http://www.nachc.com/about-our-health-centers.cfm

The People's CenterThe only one that I know about in the Minneapolis metro area is The People's Center near the University of Minnesota.  I had seen it before while visiting UofM, so it popped into my mind when deciding this week that I really needed to get my vitamin B12 blood levels tested.  I scheduled an appointment, and they told me to bring in a copy of my paycheck stub so they could verify my income levels.  I did so this morning during my visit, and I qualified for 100% coverage after an initial $20 payment.

They're about as poor as their patients, I think.  I had an intake meeting inside a small utility closet that had been converted to an office space.  There was barely enough room to swing the door closed with both of us sitting down.  It looked like they were reusing printer paper, placing stacks of used pages into the printer for internal paperwork.  Every person I encountered was trying to be helpful, but the whole place was rather disorganized.  What appeared to me as the best run section of the clinic was the lab (pictured here, and I think this was the same woman who did my bloodwork too).

It's important to have places like this.  It doesn't make it into the mainstream news media very often, and most Americans don't want to face this reality anyway, but our social standards in America are worse than most other industrialized nations.  We pay far too much for health care that doesn't offer significant benefits compared to other countries, and we're slipping farther and farther into poverty.  In fact, using guidelines that were recommended back in 1995, our National Academies recently announced results of their new calculations:

Using the report’s revised definitions, the Census Bureau calculated a higher rate of poverty (15.8 percent) than the Bureau’s official annual estimate (13.2 percent).
- http://www.nationalacademies.org/headlines/20091020b.html

Yeah.  More than 1 in 7 Americans is in poverty.  In other words, I have lots and lots of company.  Some of their stories are much sadder than mine.

Let's hope that some kind of "public option" gets passed in health reform this year.  It would be nice to have health care coverage just by paying my taxes.  I need some investigative work done by specialists, and that'll never happen at charity primary care centers.

Date: 2009-10-22 04:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] joshuwain.livejournal.com
This is an excellent blog post; I hope many people read it and learn from your experience!

Date: 2009-10-23 12:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bluebear2.livejournal.com
Yeah that's how it works in Canada. People have some minor thing and because it costs them nothing to have it looked at, things get fixed when it's still a small thing and doesn't get to be a larger problem which then causes much more money to fix. And overall Canadians tend to be healthier than Americans.

I think it's about time that the U.S. does this. Even with the big debt, it's still a rich country and can afford it.
In fact can it afford not to?

Date: 2009-10-22 04:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dodecadragon.livejournal.com
My main issue the last bill I read about (from the finance committee) is that it doesn't go into effect until 2019, and given the recent news about how many people are dying due to being uninsured, if the bill waits until 2019 then they are already acting like a death panel and killing off approximately 183,140 people in the next 10 years.

Source: http://pnhp.org/excessdeaths/health-insurance-and-mortality-in-US-adults.pdf

This country went to war and plunged itself into major debt over just 3000 people.

Where is the logic?

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