For over four decades, America’s Health Centers have demonstrated a long and rich history of adapting to challenge. Today, those challenges are more daunting than ever. The number of uninsured patients getting care at health centers grew 62 percent since 2000, the most significant growth in the program’s history. One of the fastest growing segments of health center patients are people in the age range of 45 to 64, who are living in poverty and are chronically ill. Health centers now serve 1 in 7 uninsured people nationally, including 1 in 5 of the low income, uninsured. Demand is at an all time high, and health centers are responding by expanding their reach and building the workforce and facilities to answer the need.
Tomorrow’s challenges are even bigger. America faces a shortage of primary care physicians that could exceed 40,000 by 2035. Experts also predict that the numbers of uninsured in America could reach as high as 60 million – with one of every five Americans uninsured by the end of the decade. In addition, health disparities are widening for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians and other racial and ethnic minorities.
Health centers have launched a plan, ACCESS for All America, to nearly double their current capacity – to serve 30 million people – by the year 2015. Affordable and accessible health care can transform the neediest communities by narrowing health disparities, eliminating low birth weights, reducing chronic disease and unnecessary hospitalizations. With a modest investment toward expanding health care access, we can produce healthier families and healthier communities. Imagine the difference. If everyone in America had access to a health care home, the health care system would save $67 billion annually.
Photo: Dr. Janet Bozzone, the Director of Dental Services at Open Door Family Medical Centers, Ossining, NY, treats a patient.