Community Health Centers Fear Effects Of GOP Cuts To Medicaid : Shots - Health News These clinics have long provided health care to low-income patients and enjoyed expansion under the Affordable Care Act. With repeal looming, the centers' doctors worry about what's next.
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Threat Of Obamacare Repeal Leaves Community Health Centers In Limbo

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Threat Of Obamacare Repeal Leaves Community Health Centers In Limbo

Threat Of Obamacare Repeal Leaves Community Health Centers In Limbo

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Many health clinics that serve low-income patients expanded under the Affordable Care Act. More of their patients got insurance. And the law designated special funds for them. Now, the future of the law is uncertain. And so we've been talking with leaders at two of those clinics about the future. Colorado Public Radio's John Daley starts us off in Denver.

JOHN DALEY, BYLINE: The Affordable Care Act changed the equation for hundreds of thousands of Coloradans, folks like Carolyn Goodrich. She's visiting her doctor at Denver Health's Pena Family Health Center.

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: What concerns do you have today?

CAROLYN GOODRICH: Just coming in for my diabetic checkup.

DALEY: Goodrich now gets insurance through her job as a pharmacy tech. But a few years ago, when she was uninsured, Goodrich discovered she qualified for Medicaid. She was one of roughly 300,000 people who signed up when Medicaid expanded in Colorado.

GOODRICH: It was a great help to me 'cause it was something that I could afford. When I was on the Medicaid, I had nothing but good care.

DALEY: People like Goodrich have a lot at stake as Republicans try to repeal and replace Obamacare. The same could be said for the clinics she's visiting. The Pena clinic is brand new. It's part of Denver Health, which is a safety net hospital. It provides services to all, whether they can pay or not. A few years ago, about 40 percent of Denver Health's patients were uninsured. Now, it's half that.

MIKE RUSSUM: Right on the other side of X-ray is Urgent Care.

DALEY: Dr. Mike Russum practices family medicine and helps lead the clinic in this predominantly low-income and Hispanic neighborhood. Russum says when the clinic opened in April, it became more convenient than going to Denver Health's main facility downtown.

RUSSUM: It's really a good location for patients to be able to access. Patients don't have to go to the hospital anymore.

DALEY: And many more of these patients now come with insurance, so the hospital gets paid for taking care of them. Dr. Simon Hambidge is Denver Health's CEO of Community Health Services. He says the clinic has 40 exam rooms, urgent care, a pharmacy, a dental clinic and other services.

SIMON HAMBIDGE: The ACA made it possible for us to feel stable enough that we could invest in a new clinic like this.

DALEY: Hambidge predicts the hospital will weather the storm if Obamacare is repealed. But he concedes, it'd probably be harder to grow. For NPR News, I'm John Daley in Denver.

KAREN SHAKERDGE, BYLINE: And I'm Karen Shakerdge in Rochester, N.Y. Jordan Health first opened its doors in 1968. It's one of the first community health centers in the country. Today, it has 10 locations and serves over 30,000 patients a year. As part of the ACA, Jordan Health received an increase of about a million dollars since 2013 through something called a Section 330 grant. Dr. Janice Harbin is Jordan Health's president and CEO.

JANICE HARBIN: The number of folks that we now have added to the team to try to make sure that our patient is healthier has been a major. When you're dealing with a situation with concentrated poverty, your patient needs more than just, OK, let me give you a checkup and pat you on the back and say, now go out and do all these things I told you to do.

SHAKERDGE: The 330 grant money also gives health centers the opportunity to offer services that insurance doesn't usually reimburse. Jordan Health hired a dietitian, behavioral health specialists and care coordinators.

HARBIN: What happens when that support goes away?

SHAKERDGE: Over the next few months, Harbin and her colleagues will be lobbying lawmakers to keep the funding which is set to end in September.

HARBIN: We're used to doing a lot with a little. But we increasingly know that we do need that financial support. And that's keeping us up at night.

SHAKERDGE: For now, Jordan Health is moving forward, but being judicious with its budget at the same time. For NPR News, I'm Karen Shakerdge in Rochester.

(SOUNDBITE OF PABLIE'S "SINCE THEN")

INSKEEP: Those stories are part of a partnership with NPR member stations and Kaiser Health News.

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