Community Health Centers Could Be Center of Health Care Reform
Sioux Falls, SD – Four million more Americans - including many in South Dakota - are without a regular source of preventive and primary health care this year. That's according to a new report released by the National Association of Community Health Centers that shows the numbers increasing from 56 million to 60 million medically-disenfranchised people.
Stacie Fredenburg, communications manager with the Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas, says much of the increase can be attributed to the loss of health care benefits resulting from job losses. She says many South Dakotans aren't getting the care they need, and dental care is a particular concern for community health centers in the rural areas of the state, where people have to drive long distances to get help.
"With the crisis going on, and dentists who won't see Medicaid patients from the start, you have limited access on top of no coverage, and people getting turned away for dental care. Dental issues left untreated turn into medical problems and that is an overall health issue for everyone."
Fredenburg says the national administration has community health centers on the fast track to receive stimulus dollars to help with the increased demands from the uninsured and under-insured. She says the good news is that many of the stimulus dollars will allow health centers in such rural areas as South Dakota to improve their building infrastructure and information technology.
"That means that the rural clinics are going to get proportionately the same amount as some of the urban areas, and that gives us the opportunity to have those resources that when it's not a competitive grant. It'll be money spread across the board in an equal manner, and then the next phase will be a competitive grant system where additional funds will be allocated."
Fredenburg says it's a fair way of making the funding available to both urban states and to smaller and more rural states like the Dakotas. She says there are 34 community health center sites in the state that will benefit from the stimulus dollars, making access to primary care available to more South Dakotans.