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August 5th, 2009

National Health Center Week

By Linda S. Muller, MS

Part I of II


- Imagine you just lost your job. (For too many these days, this is not an imaginary scenario.)

You’re sitting at the kitchen table with a notepad, thinking about evaluating your savings, keeping up with the rent, canceling the cable television, gathering the grocery coupons out of the mail that you used to throw away.

Suddenly, from the next room, you hear your daughter sneeze. That’s when you remember – losing your job means your family will lose health insurance, too.

The ongoing national debate over health care reform is not an exercise in abstractions. It’s rooted in just these kinds of stories. The number of uninsured Americans was already on the rise before the economic downturn. That’s why elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, have committed anew to finding a long-term solution.

But there’s good news to share about the here and now. Community Health Centers are playing their long-standing role: serving as primary points of access to high-quality health care, regardless of a person’s insurance status or ability to pay.

Community Health Centers, also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers, are nonprofit, locally directed providers of primary and preventive health care, other medical services and enabling services (such as translation). America’s 1,200-plus health centers are "health care homes" for more than 18 million people.

Many health center patients are uninsured. Others have private insurance and choose Community Health Centers because they like the quality of care and the fact that every patient is treated with dignity. Still others have public insurance, such as Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). (The daughter in our story above may be eligible for CHIP, and the local health center can help the family find out.)

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