Friday, October 27, 2000

Rural Poor, Uninsured Are Half the Visitors to Health Centers, Community Health Funding Report

Rural Poor, Uninsured Are Half the Visitors to Health Centers
By Pamela Appea
Community Health Funding Report, Rural Health
October 27, 2000
Copyright 2000 by Community Development Publications

Expanding community-health centers to make it easier for patients to visit their doctors would strengthen the U.S. health-care safety network and enhance continuity of health care for medically underserved individuals and families, a new study indicates.

Primary-care visits by uninsured or Medicaid-insured patients accounted for 65% of visits to community health centers and 43% to hospital outpatient departments, says the study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. In 1998, about 33 million adults in the United States ages 18 to 64 lacked health insurance and benefits.

The study also shows most patients using HHS-supported health centers are racial and ethnic minorities, people with Medicaid or no health insurance and people living in rural areas, says Dr. Claude Earle Fox, HRSA administrator.

HRSA invests $4.6 billion annually as the main HHS agency in charge of improving health care access for uninsured individuals and families in the United States.

Uninsured adults say they cannot see a doctor when necessary because of the cost and [the fact they are] less likely to get routine physicals.

The report shows long-term uninsured adults often were unable to see a health-care practitioner for cancer screenings, cardiovascular risk-reduction and diabetes care, though they may be at a higher risk of developing chronic disease or other health problems.

“Continuity of care is the heart and soul of wellness for patients, particularly with chronic conditions. Continuous and timely treatment can curb complicated costly procedures down the road,” says Dr. Marilyn Hughes Gaston, HRSA associate administrator for primary care and assistant surgeon general.

Christopher Forrest and Ellen-Marie-Whelan are the lead authors of the study, Primary Care Safety-Net Providers in the United States: a Comparison of Community Health Centers, Hospital Outpatient Departments and Physician Offices.

Info: HRSA,;