INDIGENT CARE: Communities in KC, NY Respond to Need
The Kansas City Star reports that area nonprofits "are bracing for a new wave" of uninsured in the aftermath of an expected 40% hike in health insurance premiums this year. Dan Purdom, medical director of the Kansas City Free Health Clinic, called a meeting yesterday to bring together agencies, hospitals and professional organizations to strengthen the medical "safety net" for the community's 200,000 uninsured residents -- a number that is now expected to grow significantly. "We'll have to solve this locally. I don't think there's political will [at the national or state level]. It's something we'll have to cobble together to make it work," he said. Harriet Duff, executive director of the Health Partnership Clinic of Johnson County, said that the patients visiting her free clinic are "mostly working people" from service sector jobs, self- employed or working for small businesses. At the meeting, the community groups agreed to:
- Launch public education campaigns about preventable diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Work to ensure that local water supplies are fluoridated to ensure dental health.
- Share patient medical records in a secure manner to better coordinate care between agencies.
- Work as a group to secure new grants (Bavley, 1/25).
Dr. Ralph Schlossman, president of the New York State Medical Society, plans to open free clinics across the state modeled after a successful community partnership in Binghamton, NY, starting this spring in Queens. The Binghamton Press reports that the Physicians Free Volunteer Clinic for the Uninsured, in its second year of operation, has used more than 350 volunteers to care for 1,337 patients through a coalition of doctors, the local health department and a medical school. After visiting the Binghamton clinic last July, Schlossman said, "They were ahead of the curve. I was very impressed with what was being done." The Broome County Health Department donates space one night a week, and provides money to buy medications. Both retired and practicing physicians, dentists, nurses and other volunteers donate their time, and the Binghamton Clinical Campus College of Medicine provides administrative assistance. Dr. Garabed Fattal, a retired pathologist who helped found the clinic, said, "People are beginning to understand there are some 45 million people -- our neighbors -- who have no health care. This is not the ideal solution, but it's the best solution we have right now." The Binghamton Press reports that most of the clinic's patients work, but make too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to buy health insurance (Breen, 1/26).