The April 2 letter, “Keep free health care in perspective,” written by Sherrie Henderson, addressed several concerns with regards to the planned Peninsula Community Health Center project. I would like to share information relative to these concerns.
The expected federal contribution to the project is not $11 million, but rather $5.5 million, and involves the co-location costs of two separate organizations, Cottonwood Health Center and Central Peninsula Counseling Services, and space for the delivery of a variety of complementary services.
Significant cost savings are anticipated to occur as a result of this project. For instance, Cottonwood Health Center’s service delivery model focuses on prevention and chronic illness management which has been shown to save state and federal programs significant amounts of money and is a strong incentive for their involvement.
A recent study of 20 community health centers showed 30 percent to 65 percent lower hospitalization rates for health center Medicaid patients than for nonhealth center Medicaid patients.
Similar studies show significant savings to hospitals as people establish medical homes and decrease the use of emergency rooms as their primary care provider. These savings directly impact taxpayers because Medicaid is a federally funded program using federal and state tax dollars.
Ms. Henderson was further concerned about the number of individual patients that are seen in Cottonwood clinic. What she did not recognize was that each of these patients is seen, on the average, several times during the year in separate patient visits.
With this said, at Cottonwood 62 percent of new patients and 46 percent of all patients during 2005 had no insurance of any kind. Having forgone care for a number of years, many of these patients come in with very complex cases.
Ms. Henderson has a misconception that Cottonwood is a “free clinic.” Fees are charged to all patients and are set according to market prevailing rates. However, discounts to these fees are available based on income and family size. Patients participate in the cost of their care, if possible, with everyone being assessed at least a “nominal fee.”
We all agree we live in a community of benevolent physicians. Some members of our community know this firsthand from the experience of having charges reduced or forgiven because of financial hardship.
However, many local residents would rather forgo care than ask for charity. In some of these cases, the progression of untreated illness can result in tremendous personal and public costs.
Services at Cottonwood and Central Peninsula Counseling Services have been designed to both complement and strengthen our local health care system and save the taxpayer in the cost of public programs.
Thanks to Ms. Henderson for raising these issues.
Central Peninsula Health Centers
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