Miffed about Insure Tennessee’s demise? Fight and switch

Jeff Keeling, Associate Editor

Jeff Keeling, Associate Editor

When it comes to health care reform, I would rather fight and switch. That is why I am becoming a patient at the Johnson City Community Health Center.

“I’d rather fight than switch.” If you are of the newspaper-reading generation, there is a good chance you remember that old advertisement for Tareyton cigarettes. If you are reading this and weren’t alive when television and radio cigarette ads were banned in 1971, thank you for recognizing the ongoing value of print media.

Sometimes, when the powers that be have not acted in a way that suits your conception of justice, equity, long-term thinking and just plain common sense, there still exist ways for you to effect positive change. If you are among the many Tennesseans disappointed by the failure of Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” bill to expand Medicaid, I understand completely. You may be more concerned than ever about our health care system’s viability. Perhaps you are angry about what you perceive as continued injustice that leaves more than a quarter million of your fellow Volunteer State residents uninsured.

On either count, I understand – and I propose you consider one way you can make a difference. It isn’t for everyone, but if 100 people make the switch, they will help improve the financial viability of a key cog in our area’s ability to provide health care to the underserved. I am writing here of the Johnson City Community Health Center, a nurse-managed clinic that celebrates 25 years in operation in a couple of months.

You may have never heard of the JCCHC. Perhaps you have heard of the ETSU Downtown Clinic, which the JCCHC was called until a few years ago. Maybe neither name is familiar. Regardless, if you are mad as heck about Insure Tennessee and don’t want to take it anymore, and you have good health insurance, I urge you to consider becoming a patient at JCCHC.

Before I list some of the reasons why, please know that I fully understand the doctor-patient relationship is a very important and intimate one. Many of you have very good reasons for staying the course when it comes to your health care provider. I have a good primary care physician myself.

With all that said, I hope the potential benefits to society, combined with the high-quality, cost-effective care available through the clinic, will be enough to get you to at least think about this option. I have utilized the clinic twice now, I have a physical scheduled, and I have been very happy with the quality of the facility, the providers, and the support staff.

In talking to the clinic’s director, Silas Tolan, a few weeks ago, I learned something unsurprising. Federal and other public money supplements the clinic’s budget so that it can fulfill its mission of providing primary care to uninsured or underinsured, low and moderate-income patients. As a “federally qualified health center,” the clinic must provide such care, though I hasten to add that it does charge all patients on a sliding fee scale. Why, that sounds like the “skin in the game” that I and my fellow conservatives believe should be a part of any good scheme to help the less fortunate.

No entity that desires a secure financial future should rely solely on grants and subsidies. Such funding is more and more at risk these days. Yet to serve the vast majority of its patients – thus preventing even higher costs to society by keeping them from accessing care at emergency rooms – JCCHC must supplement their lack of both financial means and good-reimbursing insurance.

That’s where we come in. Every person with good income and standard, employer-provided insurance who becomes a patient at JCCHC represents an improvement to the center’s bottom line. Every such improvement to that bottom line helps JCCHC serve more of the patients it is tasked with serving. Every low-income, underinsured or uninsured patient getting excellent primary and secondary care through JCCHC helps decrease the huge cost – to society, to our hospital systems and to our economy – of uninsured patients accessing care in the most expensive place (the emergency room) at the most expensive time (after small, inexpensive problems have become big expensive ones).

I first went to the JCCHC when I was sick with what turned out to be the flu. I opted for the clinic instead of a standard urgent-care clinic. I was seen quickly inside a nearly new, very nice building and received great care. From there, I have begun the process of becoming a regular patient.

If you’re ready to investigate making the switch, I urge you to do so. If you’re unsure, try the clinic when you have a non-emergency but acute condition that might normally send you to the “doc in a box.” You’ll be making a difference, and I wager you won’t regret it.



About Author

Comments are closed.