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Access to health care
Few of us actually enjoy going to the doctor. However, when we get sick, quick access to a doctor is a privilege many people do not have.
Access to care is not easy for many Oklahomans, and the barriers are numerous: insurance status, available hours, the need for specialty care, and the need for continuity of care. There are a few innovative things going on to address this challenge. One of them is Variety Care, a system of community health centers in Oklahoma, which has helped make quality health care affordable and accessible in three primary ways:
—providing sliding-scale billing for uninsured patients. Variety Care’s board sets fees for uninsured
patients that are discounted based on the federal poverty level. This
allows those with the least to access a medical visit for as low as $25.
the clinic for extended hours and offering care to the whole family.
Variety Care offers evening and weekend access at many of its locations.
In addition, the clinic sees children, adults and seniors, which helps
parents in the “sandwich generation” navigate care for all of their
loved ones at one location.
our foundation to promote patient equity and positive outcomes through
community philanthropy. The Variety Care Foundation provides many
resources and lots of leverage to expand access rapidly. Our strategic
plan is to increase patient capacity from 56,000 this year to 100,000 by
2014. The foundation raises funds that help vulnerable patients access
care that otherwise would be out of reach, like restorative dental
item defines my role, which is telling the story of Oklahomans whose
health can be improved through donations from the community. When people
learn more about what Variety Care does and how we operate so
efficiently, they are always impressed. Variety Care’s annual cost per
patient is $490,
dramatically lower than the U.S. average of almost $9,000. Plus, we help
save the overall health care system money by providing primary and
pediatric care for a population that would normally seek such care in an
emergency room. In turn, those tax dollars that would go to hospitals
to help cover ER losses can instead go to build parks, schools and
is continuing to find innovative ways to expand our capacity to meet the
health care needs of Oklahomans. We are working to support a massive
dental care expansion in south OKC, a new, comprehensive, primary care health center in
northwest OKC, expanded partnerships for behavioral health care, two new
OKC public schoolbased health centers and a public-housing health care
projects will make a tremendous difference in increasing quality of life
for everyone in our community, while saving all of us precious
resources. Thousands of Oklahomans will gain access to the care they
need that many of us may take for granted. And that, in and of itself,
is a part of the American dream.
—Andrew Rice Oklahoma City
is executive director of the Variety Care Foundation, which provides
community awareness and philanthropic support to Variety Care.
Opinions expressed on
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newspaper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the
opinions of ownership or management.