Leveling the Playing Field in Health Care
by Mitesh Popat, MD, MPH
These days, health care and uncertainty seem to go together. Families worry about insurance coverage and community clinics fear that government funding may be drastically reduced.
Despite the turmoil, Marin Community Clinics remains strong and is here to stay. (Our collaborative effort with the County of Marin to transfer dental and medical specialty services is a recent success.) This year, more than ever before, we are committed to ensuring access to health care for everyone.
Our 2018 theme is “Leveling the Playing Field in Health Care,” with these priorities:
Addressing key social barriers to care
Many of our patients have challenging life situations that have a direct impact on their health.
The list is long: the high cost of care, inadequate or no health insurance, lack of transportation, limited access to healthy food, being unhoused, lack of child care, and substance abuse problems. These issues can result in delayed care or no care at all, which can be life-threatening.
Marin Community Clinics is committed to breaking down these barriers, often working in partnership with other organizations. For example, a collaborative project is underway with Whistlestop to provide our patients with transportation to their medical and dental appointments. It’s already having an impact – more appointments are being kept! We continue to provide healthy food at our popular weekly Health Hubs and help hundreds of residents with health insurance enrollment.
Being the “health home” for our patients
For patients with complex health problems or barriers to care, having one place to receive care is ideal. Medical, dental and behavioral health providers work as a team, labs and pharmacies are on site, and even optometry and radiology are available. It’s easier for patients and health outcomes are better.
Increasing the breadth and depth of our services
The more services we can provide at our own clinics, the more convenient for patients and the better coordinated the care. In 2018, we will continue to expand specialty medical services.
We will also increase wellness services, with classes on stress management, diabetes, and pain management – issues affecting many of our patients. With the recent addition of a substance abuse specialist, we now offer alcohol and drug abuse counseling.
Adding to our Charity Care Fund
This year, we set aside $20,000 for our Charity Care Fund, which helps pay for services that patients need but that we don’t provide, such as MRIs. That won’t be enough, so we have set a goal of $100,000 for this year that we hope to reach through fundraising efforts.
Serving a broader base of patients
Marin’s older adult population is dramatically increasing and the community-based physician population is dwindling. The result is that many older adults are having difficulty accessing primary care. Marin Community Clinics intends to play a strong role in filling this gap and is well-prepared to do so. We are a Medicare-certified provider and have providers with both expertise and strong interest in serving older patients.
Enhancing our technical capabilities to reach patients
Many of our patients don’t have internet access, but virtually all of them have cell phones. We currently use telecommunications for appointment reminders and plan to explore additional platforms so that we can provide health information targeted to patients’ specific needs.
Advocating for our patients
Finally, in this uncertain time, advocacy has become increasingly important. We will continue to serve as a strong advocate for our most vulnerable patients and encourage you to do so as well. Contact your local legislators and share your views.
Yes, we have a lot we want to accomplish in 2018, but it’s an important year and we are confident that we can make a difference in the health of Marin and help ensure that everyone has access to high-quality health care.