The Morehead News

Local News

December 27, 2013

People’s Clinic facing new health care world

Dec. 27, 2013 —     Will pending changes in national health care policy put the People’s Clinic of Morehead out of business?

    “Affordable health care for everyone eventually will be a great blessing to our patients but it’s not going to happen very soon,” says Keith Kappes, chair of the People’s Clinic Board of Directors.

    He continued:

    “We still need our great volunteers to provide free medical care and staff support and our generous donors to continue funding us as they have done so faithfully since 2005.”

    Expansion of Medicaid and subsidized health insurance go into effect on Jan. 1 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

    The People’s Clinic is among 1,200 non-profit organizations providing free medical care in the U. S.

    “We’ve made a serious, deliberate effort to contact the nearly 2,700 patients in our database to make sure they are aware of the opportunities to either sign up for expanded Medicaid or for health insurance under the new rules,” said Jim Brandenburg, People’s Clinic executive director.

    He said several PC patients have reported they will be covered or insured by Jan. 1 but the clinic continues to regularly get calls about appointments from new patients.

    Kappes said the PC board and staff intend to continue providing free medical services to the uninsured as long as the need exists.

    “From the outset, most of our patients have been those ineligible for Medicaid for various reasons or otherwise unable to pay for medical care,” he said. “Even under the new rules, we believe there will be a sizable segment of the population which does not qualify for Medicaid or cannot afford to pay for health insurance, even with a government subsidy.”

    Kappes said the new rules represent a particular challenge for the working poor, those whose incomes will be above the thresholds for Medicaid but not high enough to buy their own insurance.

    One part of that segment could be workers at companies that won’t be required to provide health insurance for their employees.

    “If a family still has to choose between basic needs like food and shelter or health care, we’ll know that nothing has really changed in their lives,” he added.

    Brandenburg says he is concerned that the online enrollment process initially discouraged some PC patients from applying for the new coverage.

    “Misinformation was a problem at the outset, especially at the national level with website problems, but we keep encouraging our patients to use the state website and to seek assistance at the hospital and other locations,” said Brandenburg. “We want everyone who is eligible to get the health care coverage they want and need.”

    According to the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, there could be as many as 26 million Americans without access to health insurance after the ACA is fully implemented.

    The total national estimate before ACA was 44 million uninsured.

    Kentucky has an estimated 680,000 uninsured so a similar percentage would leave about 400,000 of our citizens still uncovered.

    In Massachusetts, where a state health coverage law similar to ACA has been in effect for more than five years, free clinics continue to serve thousands of uninsured patients.

    “We’re hopeful that most of our current patients someday will be served under the new law but we are going to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Kappes said.  “At this point, we and our patients many more questions than answers about how all of it will work.”

    The People’s Clinic receives no funding from the federal or state governments.

    Gifts to the People’s Clinic Foundation, Inc., are tax deductible as provided by law. The mailing address is PO Box 962, Morehead, KY 40351.

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