Anxiety and speculation surrounding access to health care in our country is constant. At His Hands Free Clinic, we see this anxiety firsthand through the eyes of our patients. Many don’t know where to even begin.
While health care systems in Iowa and across the country are struggling, our local community has worked hard to ensure those who need care are able to receive it. Thanks in large part to our many communitywide collaborations, Linn County is well situated to address short-term needs, and has the flexibility to adjust to changes in funding that appear imminent.
There are nearly 6,500 uninsured county residents, as reported by Linn County Public Health. This number does not include people unable to afford health insurance in 2018 because of increasing costs.
Among those with insurance, many have only catastrophic insurance because of the increasing costs. These plans typically do not cover routine doctor visits. It is proven that delaying preventive care and medical care for mild illnesses often results in the development of larger — and sometimes life-threatening — health issues before treatment finally is obtained.
In Linn County, we are fortunate to have two free clinics, including His Hands, and one federally qualified health center (offering services on a sliding fee scale).
These institutions provide routine medical care to those who are uninsured or underinsured. For these clinics, and others like them throughout the country, the financial and human resources always are needed to ensure sustainability. Federal money provides a large portion of the funding for federally qualified health centers, but free clinics rely almost entirely on the generosity of individuals to be able to continue to serve the community.
This brings us back to the question faced daily by our staff and volunteers: What do we do to help those patients who walk through our doors filled with anxiety?
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Our goal is to fill the gap and provide resources to help those we serve to obtain access to health insurance and a primary care provider. Unfortunately, the increasing need for affordable health care increases the wait times for patients needing care because of the lack of medical and nonmedical staff. And although we are making strides in connecting individuals with primary care providers, there remains a large gap for patients with chronic conditions and complex cases that need specialty care and costly medications.
If we continue to work together, I am confident that we can address many of these issues in time. If you are a person of faith, I implore you to pray for the health care system in our community and country as legislators work to improve access to care and also for the volunteers and staff who give of their time and talents to serve those in our community.
I encourage you to be a part of the solution and give the gift of health to our neighbors!
If you would like to volunteer at His Hands Free Clinic, go to HisHandsClinic.org to learn more. A commitment of as little as three hours per month can make a big difference in the life of your fellow citizens in Linn and surrounding counties.
• Dawn Brouwers is executive director of His Hands Free Clinic in Cedar Rapids