KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Community Health Centers Help Those Without Insurance

News outlets looked a local efforts by community health centers.

In 2001, a Charleston, W.Va., a hospital and three community health centers set up a Community Access Program to help give low-income residents a primary health care system in the hopes of lowering emergency room care. The program has enrolled 5,000 people and "cut their hospital use in half," the Charleston Gazette reports. "This is the plan: Identify people who use the emergency room for routine care, who make less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Encourage them to enroll at a community health center, where staff help them manage problems like diabetes and high blood pressure on a week-to-week basis. If people enroll, they get a card that entitles them to hospital care -- if it's needed -- for $25 to $35 a year. That low cost is still worth it to the hospital, Whitler said, because people at that income level qualify for hospital charity care anyhow. Also, the program will probably improve their health, and they'll use the hospital less" (Long, 9/25).

The Gazette also has a related story of one couple's success at a local community health center.

Officials in Charlottesville, Va., expect to open a federally subsidized community health center soon, the Daily Progress reports. "Charlottesville is eligible for the center because it is home to an officially designated medically underserved area. Given the presence of two large hospitals and plenty of physicians in the city, it had long been impossible to get the designation, local officials said. But a new federal rule, which takes into account other demographic factors including poverty and age, allowed them to win the designation in 2008 for an area beginning across a set of railroad tracks from the UVa Medical Center and running west to Avon Street. It's not unusual for underserved areas to be almost on top of major hospitals, a state health official said. 'Even in very wealthy counties, we often find pockets of poverty that are underserved,' said Ken Studer, a designation manager at the Virginia Department of Health" (Strong, 9/26).

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