“This…crazy patchwork…is not adequate to allow people to thrive and contribute”

Kate White Tudor, Washington Association of Community and Migrant Health Centers,  testifies before the House Committee on Health Care and Wellness in support of House Bill 1321 (Declaring the intent for all Washingtonians to have health care coverage by 2020) – she shares how her staff still see uninsured patients despite significant efforts to sign everybody up for coverage:

Thank you Chair Cody and members of the committee. My name is Kate White Tutor and I am here to represent the WA Association of Community and Migrant Health Centers.

As many of you have known from long conversations with us, the health centers exist to serve all patients, regardless of their ability to pay. That has been a part of our mission since the congress established the federally qualified health centers back in 1965 in conjunction with the creation of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. So we are doing our best to serve everybody across the state of Washington at our 200 clinic sites. We saw over 800,000 patient in 2013 and historically over the last decade or so about a 1/3 of our have been uninsured and we see them on a sliding fee scale where they pay where they can afford and we provide the best primary care that is available in their communities.

So, we believe in the mission of covering all people. We have been a partner in the work to cover all kids and have appreciated the legislature’s leadership on that. However, we are still seeing uninsured patients despite our significant efforts to sign up everybody we possibly can for the coverage expansions through Medicaid. We are; well I have to brag of the people who have signed up for in person-assistance 65% of them were assisted by staff within the community health centers and we contributed to that half a million new enrollees in Medicaid and the additional 100,000+ on the exchange.

So there’s a lot of work we have been doing and we want to continue it and we want to get the job done. We are still seeing patients who are uninsured for dental care, we are seeing patients who have insurance but they can’t afford their deductibles and their co-pays. They are essentially uninsured until they bankrupt themselves with medical bills before their insurance kicks in. We would really like to make sure the primary care we offer is not all that everybody needs.

They sometimes do need specialty or hospital care and we do our best to try and find volunteer providers for those services. But this is a crazy patchwork that is not adequate to people the kind of stability and health care that allows them to thrive and to contribute to their families, to take on jobs, to pay their taxes and to contribute to their communities. So, we support this bill, we look forward to working with you and doing what it takes to cover all people in Washington.

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