Community health centers see Affordable Care Act helpful to make their resources last

TUCSON, AZ (TNN) – For the uninsured, the inside of a doctor's office can be an uncommon sight.

"(Because) I can't afford it, so I have to go to the emergency," said Linda Gonzales, who said that she does not have health insurance after being homeless and not having an address for Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to use.

"Community health centers are able to provide care at about a fourth the cost of an emergency room.  So for somebody to show up here, we can take care of them, give them the same treatment they need, probably better care in some senses because we have, we follow-up care," said Marana Health Center CEO Clint Kuntz.

He said that the Arizonans who lost AHCCCS coverage a few years ago, who were mostly childless adults and those who make up to a third more than the poverty level, are most likely to sign back up under the Affordable Care Act, which expanded Medicaid in Arizona.  He said that an estimated 90 thousand people like that live in Pima County.

"If they're coming to us, they're getting screened, they're getting the help they're eligible for.  What we're going to try to more actively do is get out in the community, let people know that we're here to help them with their options that are available to them," he said.

He said that getting more patients insured helps community health centers because they still need to help the remaining uninsured.

"What this will allow us to do is take our resources which are going into helping uninsured patients, and as uninsured patients become insured, those same resources can help more people," he said.

"I don't have a physician to talk to, and then, this way, when I get the health insurance I will have a physician," Gonzales said.

Kuntz said that one challenge in the next few months will be communication to patients that while they can sign up for coverage, it will not begin until the beginning of next year.

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