Access Health is a model for Health Care Reform
Earlier this year I began working on a project to find people who can tell about their experiences with a program called Access Health here in South Carolina. So far, I have met some amazing people who have no insurance and limited access to quality care. These people don’t look different from you and me. They are our neighbors and the people we see at church.
From Oconee County to Spartanburg County to Kershaw County, I traveled to meet Access Health clients, as well as physicians, nurses, medical clinic directors, and hospital executives who advocates of Access Health, an initiative that is bringing quality care to individuals who do not have health insurance.
Here is what I have learned:
1. One of every six persons living in SC has no health insurance. Most of them can’t afford it. During the recent recession, the numbers of unemployed and uninsured citizens in our state reached historic levels.
2. Each day, thousands of South Carolinians from all walks of life are forced to choose between paying their rent or going to the doctor, between feeding their children or having prescriptions filled.
3. In several communities throughout our state, Access Health is working with healthcare providers and community organizations to deliver coordinated care that focuses on the unique needs of each patient. They are offering not only hope, but results as they give low income persons a chance for a healthier, more productive life.
What do I mean by “coordinated care”?
For many individuals who do not have insurance and therefore no primary care physician, the smallest health issue takes them to the emergency room. The staff of the emergency room tries to resolve the issue immediately during that visit; however, without follow-up care that a primary care physician would provide, the medical issues are often not permanently resolved.
Access Heath not only helps with medical situations, but also provides case managers who follow up with the patient. This treatment focuses on the patient as a whole person and the medical problem as more than a set of symptoms. One gentleman who lived with untreated epilepsy for five years didn’t even know that he was diabetic until he saw an Access Health doctor. He had attributed all of his health problems to epilepsy.
Since the program’s start in 2008, Access Health networks have provided services to more than 25,000 South Carolinians. Use of emergency rooms among Access Health clients has decreased by an average of 19 percent.
One individual who lost her job and health insurance described the services provided by Access Health as better than when she had medical insurance. Specifically, she was impressed with the coordination of her care and how the Access Health providers truly educated her about how to live a healthy lifestyle. After “graduating” from the program, she had a better understanding of how to manage her health and navigate the health care system.
The ultimate goal of AccessHealth is not only to provide comprehensive healthcare for the uninsured but to remove obstacles and empower “clients” to become their own health advocates. AccessHealth networks refer clients to appropriate social services. Addressing social needs along with medical needs greatly improves their chances for a healthy, productive life. One client told me that they even helped her son apply to college, something no one in the family knew how to do.
Access Health SC is a model for Reform
The Access Health model is one that I think can be a model for reform right here in South Carolina. The Medicaid Expansion investment could be a tremendous resource to fund models like Access Health in South Carolina, models that are already proven to be a success. Imagine more medical homes, better coordination of care, reductions in emergency room visits…all for the uninsured of South Carolina.
Why not follow the lead of other conservative states and expand Medicaid, leverage the resources, and reform the way care is delivered? We’re already reforming the way care is delivered right here in South Carolina.
Bobby Rettew, M.A., Principal of BobbyRettew,llc, http://about.me/bobbyrettew, phone: 864.517.6149, twitter: @bobbyrettew
I want to thank Bobby for his contribution. I’ve made my position clear about Medicaid expansion here, however, y’all know this site is an open forum.