Marin County Clinics Hit by Jump in Demand for Health Care Services
Recently unemployed workers are turning to reduced- and no-cost community clinics in Marin County in larger numbers, raising questions about the long-term viability of some clinics' funding models, the Marin Independent Journal reports.
John Shen, director of Marin Community Clinics, said, "We're all beginning to deal with an economic situation that has never been experienced since the safety net was created." He said new patients at the clinics are usually age 45 or older and have chronic health conditions.
Shen said that Marin Community Clinics treated 1,400 new patients in the last quarter of 2008 and that the average number of patients seeking care at the clinics each month has jumped to 6,000 this year from 4,500 in 2008. However, he said that it is unclear whether the increase in patients is because of the recession or an increase in capacity at the clinics.
Diane Linn, executive director of the Ritter Center in San Rafael, said the health clinic that her organization operates is seeing more patients who have lost health insurance provided through COBRA, which allows employees to use their existing insurance for up to 18 months after becoming unemployed.Shen said the financial structure of Marin Community Clinics could be harmed if more people with moderate incomes seek care there because federal grants the clinics receive cannot be used to fund care for people with incomes that exceed 200% of the federal poverty level (Halstead, Marin Independent Journal, 3/28). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.