Local Health Organization Calls ACA a Boon For Business

By Steve Jackson

The Community Health Association of Spokane, or CHAS, has been successful in helping to sign up thousands of people for health coverage since the Affordable Care Act when into effect earlier this year. Before the ACA went into effect, the CHAS clinics saw about 52,000 patients a year, most of them low income, of which 17,000 were uninsured. Since the first of the year, they’ve been able to get 7,100 of those uninsured signed up for either the state’s health plan or through Medicaid.
 
Chief medical officer with CHAS, Dr Bill Lockwood, says one result is the increased number of referrals the clinics have been able to. In the past, that had been difficult in  many cases, because specialists did not often accept patients as referrals who had no insurance.

Lockwood: “But now in the past month, in January, our weekly referral went fro 500 a week up to 800, and people have had this pent up demand and couldn’t get a specialist, but now that they have insurance, they can get the care they need.”
 
Lockwood says overall, CHAS has not had any problems treating the new patients that have coverage. In fact he says they’ve been able to help people with urgent medical needs to sign up and get treated the same day.

Lockwood: “If we see some one who is really sick, and we feel needs to go the emergency department and if they don’t have insurance they are sometimes reluctant to do that, or PSC can get them signed up fro insurance on the spot, and they have insurance before they go to the emergency department the same day. That doesn’t always happen, but weve seen it time and again, and it’s a tremendous benefit to the patients.”

Lockwood reminds that even though the sign up deadline fro health plans offered through the state’s Health Exchange expires March 31st, there is no expiration date for those to sign up who are eligible for Medicaid.

If you would like more info on signing up for the state’s plans or Medicaid, you can call CHAS at 444-8200
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