Health Systems Offer Basic Care at No Cost
Some health care systems are "searching for ways to fend off disease and large debts by bringing uninsured visitors into continuing basic care," the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, some hospital officials have "decided that for many patients with chronic diseases, it would be cheaper to provide free preventive care than to absorb the high cost of repeated emergencies."
For example, New York City's public Health and Hospital Corporation has assigned about 240,000 uninsured patients to primary care physicians, while Denver's public system, Denver Health, has 41,000 uninsured residents enrolled for care in local clinics.
HHC President Alan Aviles said, "For most preventive efforts there is an upfront expense. But over the long term, it saves money."
Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, said the tactic is being pursued by "a handful of visionary hospital systems around the country." She added, "All these local efforts are commendable, but they are like sticking fingers in the dikes."
Regina Rogoff -- director of the People's Community Clinic, a program that provides primary care services to 11,000 people in Austin, Texas -- said, "I think we are a good Band-Aid for those able to come to our clinic. But it's not a solution to have such a ragtag, makeshift system" (Eckholm, New York Times, 10/25).