Health Care Options for the Poor

With the legislature’s recent vote to keep prenatal care on the list of services available for illegal immigrants, the question becomes: how good a job is Colorado doing of reaching women who need such care in the first place? How about other types of care for people who lack health insurance?

It’s widely accepted that prenatal care helps prevent birth defects, premature birth, and a host of other complications. This saves society money because treating infants born with these problems costs far more than providing women with prenatal vitamins, screening for problems such as gestational diabetes, and other problems. Indeed, preventative care generally is a good way to avoid high medical bills later.

Consider the case of Salud, whose mission is to provide care for all people, not turning “patients away based on finances, insurance coverage, or ability to pay.” The nonprofit organization operates 14 clinics in nine communities in Weld, Boulder, Adams, Larimer, Morgan, and Logan Counties.

In Longmont, about one-third of the women delivering babies received prenatal care from Salud, according to Jennifer Morse, Salud’s development director. Internal statistics show that the Longmont clinic serves 11,327 people for all sorts of visits, not just prenatal care. That’s 65% of the people living in the area who live at the twice the official federal poverty level, meaning that a family of four has an income of $40,000 or less.Sixty-five percent is good “penetration,” in the lingo of the clinic. It’s not a simple matter to reach everybody. But 65% means that there is still 35% of the population which is not being served who probably need help. It’s not clear how many of these people are women needing prenatal care. And the percentage may even be higher, since often clinics see people who do not live in the geographical area they are meant to serve.

Overall, Salud current statistics show that Salud sees 65,175 people at its various clinics. They come from areas that are severely underserved by medical professionals, with high rates of people who lack health insurance. Clinic estimates show that in the areas they serve, Salud reaches roughly 43% of the people living at twice the poverty level.

“We’re critical in making sure people have access to care,” says Morse. “In this day and age, financial concerns are the biggest barrier to people getting the health care that they need.”

Salud’s achievement is admirable, but there are still many people in Colorado who need health care and aren’t getting it.

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