Photo Gallery | Affordable care clinics gear up to serve Memphis' remaining uninsured
Despite excruciating pain and much-needed dental work, Katherine Noble put off seeking care because she could not afford treatment. An exposed nerve would have cost Noble—whose job at Sam’s Wholesale Club did not offer health insurance—about $9,000.
After suffering for years, Noble went to the Church Health Center in Midtown. Dr. Gaither pulled three teeth on the first day, and he worked with Noble over several months to resolve all of her various dental issues at an affordable cost.
“They helped me tremendously. They changed my whole life, really,” said Noble. “Dr. [Michael] Gaither and his team were so gentle and caring. I’ve never been treated like that in my life. I can’t explain how people just loved on me and cared for me. I know without a doubt that God sent me there and sent Dr. Gaither to me.”
As thousands of Tennesseeans can now shop the new online marketplace for reasonably-priced private insurance, clinics that provide affordable health care to uninsured working community members and their families are saying—don't worry, we are still here.
Many of the state's affordable clinics like the Church Health Center in Memphis will stretch its resources for those bypassed by the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, while still catering to needs of returning patients like Noble.
“The Church Health Center is not going out of business,” said Church Health Center CEO Dr. Scott Morris. “If anything we're expanding to meet the growing needs of our community and to address things not covered by the Affordable Care Act such as adult dentistry, behavioral health and prevention."
More than 900,000 uninsured Tennesseans will be eligible for health insurance in January of next year, according to Tennessee Crossings. But because the state did not accept funding for a Medicaid expansion, families and individuals living below the poverty line will not have access to affordable health care.
An estimated 180,000 to 225,000 people not including undocumented immigrants will be left uncovered without the TennCare Expansion. Groups like the Church Health Center and Christ Community Health Services will fill the gaps locally as some of the most vulnerable people in the community will receive no financial help to buy insurance.
“First and foremost, we have a responsibility to provide quality care to our patients in a sustainable way,” said Church Health Center Chief Strategic Officer Ann Langston. “But the Church Health Center also has a responsibility to help lead our community in making the best use of all of our resources. We’ll need all hands on deck to make it happen, and it’s gratifying to see our friends in the faith community stepping up to help.”
Uninsured patients at the Church Health Center pay fees for care on a sliding scale based on income. But a possible influx of new uninsured patients will not halt other activities like healthy cooking classes at the center.
For those who will be covered under the new health law, the Church Health Center will be available to help their patients make an easy transition. Although most of the center's patients, who fall 100 percent below the poverty line, will remain uninsured.
Other Memphis-based affordable care clinics are helping residents navigate and register for the plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Amanda Chandler with Christ Community Health Services admits the reform is confusing; as a trained professional she is ready to help families understand the different health plans.
"The certified counselor will be able to walk them through the different insurance options and assess them for other programs like Medicare and Medicaid and other similar programs," said Chandler.
Although, similarly to the Church Health Center, Christ Community Health Services will offer affordable care to uninsured residents at locations that cross from southwest Memphis, Frayser, Orange Mound, Hickory Hill, tp Binghampton.
As for Noble, she is using her renewed confidence and smile to use in her own ministry. She is a greeter at her church, Bellevue Baptist Church.
Noble is just one of the millions served at facilities nationwide like the Church Health Center each year.
To visit the Health Insurance Marketplace, click here. If you are not eligible for any plans you can look into affordable, quality care from the Church Health Center here or the Christ Community Health Services here.
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