Blum praises role of community health centers

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A day after job-shadowing emergency room personnel at a Waterloo hospital, U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, toured a Cedar Rapids community health center he believes can expand access to affordable health care.

“This was really beautiful coming from the emergency room job shadow yesterday,” Blum said Tuesday, a day after visiting the ER at Allen Memorial Hospital. “This was a great contrast.”

The visit to the Eastern Iowa Health Center reinforced for Blum the benefits to patients as well as taxpayers of the community health care center concept.

The first-term Republican, who is up for re-election, was impressed by the time staff members spent with patients and their emphasis on patient education.

“It’s front-lobe here on how to educate their clientele on how to stay out of the emergency room, care for a newborn, for examples, how to treat chronic conditions,” Blum said after an hourlong tour.

Along the way he fist-bumped young patients and picked talk out of children and their parents as well as discussed the health care center’s services with staff members.

The visit, the second Blum has made to Eastern Iowa Health Center, is a way for him to hear from people on both the delivery and receiving ends of the health care services process, said Blum staffer John Ferland. Blum often hears about issues and legislation from people who are passionate about them.

That was the case Tuesday. Diane Sorenson, a social worker who specializes in working with obstetrics patients, talked to Blum about the cost of diapers. A typical child will use an average of 50 diapers a week before being potty-trained, she said. It’s not uncommon to see children whose parents have reused disposable diapers because of the cost.

She encouraged him to support a bill in Congress that would provide diaper assistance funds to families that qualify for day care assistance.

“Are there any Republicans on it?” he asked referring to co-sponsors.

“There should be,” Sorenson replied.

“How can you get a job if you can’t get day care?” Blum said before asking Sorenson for more information about the bill.

Blum’s tour, which coincided with National Health Center Week. Observance, is part of the effort to expose members of Congress to the work being done in their districts, said Sarah Dixon, senior director of the Iowa Primary Care Association.

“Seeing it means more to them than just hearing about it,” said Dixon, who was on hand for the tour. “We’re able to demonstrate innovations and our specific programs to meet the unique needs of our clientele.”

That’s important because of the “significant federal investment” in community health centers, Dixon said.

CEO Joe Lock said Eastern Iowa Health Center had more than 40,000 patient visits last year — up from 25,000 the previous year. He estimated 98 percent of the patients have incomes ranging from zero to 200 percent of the federal poverty level and 80 percent are Medicaid-eligible.

Community health centers play a key role in health care delivery, especially from a cost standpoint,” Blum said.

“We needed to do things to bring costs down,” he said after the tour. “One of the pieces of the puzzle is to have community health centers for people who cannot afford health care insurance.

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