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Demand Up 25%: Nevada Calls Attention to Community Health Centers

August 9, 2010

LAS VEGAS - This is National Health Center Week, the first observance since enactment of the new national health care reform law, and meant to raise awareness about Nevada's two nonprofit, community-based primary care organizations, which have some 35 clinic locations statewide.

Tom Chase, CEO of Nevada Health Centers, says they have seen a 25 percent increase in demand for services over the past two years. He says they provided regular and respectful care in 200,000 recent encounters with patients, many of whom live 75 miles and more away from the nearest private doctor.

"Access for most Nevadans outside of Reno and Las Vegas is difficult, and the reason for that is doctors don't go to communities that can't support them."

More than a billion health reform and stimulus dollars are going to centers nationwide this fall to expand staff and facilities. Chase says the centers are crucial to providing services to the estimated 700,000 uninsured Nevadans, because they accept patients regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.

More help is on the way; that was the message from U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a web-based town hall meeting on Friday. She announced a $250 million plan to add 350 new health centers nationwide as part of the Affordable Care Act.

"In addition to investing in infrastructure and equipment, we're also making historic investments in the National Health Service Corps, which places high importance on health care providers in areas of high need."

Tom Chase of Nevada Health Centers says federal health reform dollars will also provide better access to low-income and other patients in need both in urban areas and now increasingly in Nevada's suburban communities.

"It means there will be more centers in urban areas to deal with folks who up to now have not had insurance; that access still has to be there, especially if they are suddenly uninsured. Where do they go? They still have to have a doctor to go to."

Chase says Nevada Health Centers is the largest such organization in the state and saw about 64,000 patients last year.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV