Today, I had to get fingerprinted to renew my license as a registered nurse. So I set out for my appointment. I stopped by to pick up my dry cleaning and chatted with the owner of the dry cleaner I use. She told me she did not have insurance but she had heard about people lined up to see a doctor today who don’t have insurance. She was talking about the free clinic held at Reliant Center today, TCARE (Texas Clinics Are Responding Event). I had heard about if from one of my directors of case management earlier in the week.
I told her that one of the physicians from our hospital on the South side runs a clinic every Sunday for a cost of $10. Four of our case managers volunteer their time at this clinic to talk with people and show them where they can access resources. She then told me she needed a mammogram but they are so expensive. I know there are resources for that too and promised her that I would come back on Monday with the information. This is the face of the debate.
Then I headed off to my appointment making a mental note of what I needed to do. I drove to the South side of Pasadena. I grew up in that area and had not been there for years. I entered a small, run down building and was greeted by a well dressed young man that I guessed was Hispanic but clearly raised in this country. As he worked to take care of my need to be fingerprinted, he asked me about nursing. I told him what I did and then he began to ask about the healthcare debate. He did not have insurance. I told him that I thought we needed reform so others could have access to the care they needed. He wanted to know which side I was on. I simply said that I believe that you should vote your conscience BUT LIVE YOUR BELIEFS. He smiled and said, “I like that.”
These interactions with two people who are working hard to make a living made me think about the Republican plan for reform because I’ve voted Republican all my life. The truth is I don’t know what their plan is or if they have one or many. But I think I have one. In addition to educating people about the benefits of having a catastrophic policy, the private companies in health care and health care professionals can step up to avoid a government take over and do what is right by helping to close the gap. We can reach out and find new ways to help people access the care they need until their situation changes to afford health insurance or until the government comes to a consensus on how to address the growing problem of access to healthcare. Many are doing it now because in reality, these “new ways” are old ways, the ways by which this country used to function, family helping family, friend helping friend, neighbor helping neighbor. As such, I will head back to the cleaners to give my friend the information she needs to address her health issues.
Here is a quick example of a great resource that can be used by those with computers to help those in need find resources. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital has a site called Project Safety Net.
Project Safety Net is a free public health web-based resource for our community. Project Safety Net, endorsed by the Harris County Public Healthcare System Council, allows users a single interactive bi-lingual web site offering free health access information such as safety net clinic locations, services, hours of operation, languages spoken and financial requirements. Project Safety Net also allows health planners to prioritize and identify with greater specificity, under-served areas where there is insufficient capacity and to determine potential expansion.
From the home page there is a link to search for clinic and services. By selecting this option, you can put in zip codes, services needed and payment types. The results will tell you all the requirements for that service. Let’s use my friend as an example. She needs a mammogram and works in zip 77571.
There is a special link for breast health services, although I also like the resource of the Rose clinic. Clicking on the Breast Health Portal link allows us to choose yet another link called Locate Clinics and Services. From this link, we will find our resources. Choosing zip code 77571 and clicking search yields only one result: Baytown Health Clinic on Garth Road. Clicking on the details, we can see all of the eligibility and payment information. But since we are in Houston, we decided we want a broader range of choices. So we go back to the Locate Clinics and Services and broaden our search, leaving the zip code at Select All and selecting the of Houston and Pasadena. This search yields 19 different choices, including The Rose, which we know from previous experience can assist our friend.
What can you do and who can you help?
Feel free to post your questions and I will post responses to the most frequently asked healthcare (access) questions. I will also try to post some tricks to accessing care in Harris County for the uninsured or underinsured. This won’t be free, but more affordable.