Health-care reform is a big, confusing, emotionally-charged topic. Now that 2014 is underway and the Affordable Care Act is beginning to take effect, many more Americans will have greater access to health insurance than they had before. It is estimated that 180,000 people in King County alone will become newly insured this year.
Still, there will be many people in our community – and throughout the country – who will continue to face barriers to accessing care. Some of them will be considered underinsured because they can’t afford to fill the gap in medical expenses not covered by their insurance. Others receiving Medicaid may find it difficult to locate a physician who is willing to take them on as a patient, as doctors are not required to see Medicaid patients, and many don’t. And then, there will probably always be those people who don’t have any insurance at all because, for one reason or another, they can’t sign up: the homeless, the chronically mentally ill, those who can’t read or write English, to name just a few.
Community clinics scattered throughout the nation, including several in our community, help address this problem on the primary care end. But access to specialty medical care for low-income patients facing barriers to care like the ones described above is likely to remain extremely difficult.
Fortunately, an innovative program pioneered at Swedish is addressing this effectively, and is likely to become a national model.
The Swedish Community Specialty Clinic (SCSC) was expanded and moved to the Swedish/First Hill campus in 2010 in part with funds raised through The Campaign for Swedish. It is one of three Swedish programs that benefited from the Destination Swedish fundraising luncheon on February 11.
The SCSC was created by Swedish to deliver high-quality specialty medical care at no cost to low-income uninsured and underinsured patients. In 2011, the SCSC expanded to offer specialty dental services. Through an innovative partnership with Project Access Northwest, the SCSC connects patients to care provided through a network of more than 300 volunteer physicians, medical and dental residents. Once they have been treated at the clinic, they are then connected to a primary care physician so future health care issues can be addressed before they become crises.
This uniquely modeled Swedish program is the only one of its kind in Washington state and one of few in the country. And it’s already receiving special recognition. To learn more, read this blog about Seattle Business Magazine's Outstanding Community Outreach award.