Despite the passage of the Affordable Care Act many Americans remain without health insurance. A Missouri coalition for expanding health care coverage recently reported that 20.9% of Kansas City area African Americans remain uninsured, compared with 11.3% of the white population.
According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Hispanics have the highest uninsured rate among ethnic groups, with about one third lacking coverage. The Foundation also reported that Hispanics must deal with barriers to enrollment. These include difficulty filling out applications, confusion regarding eligibility, and immigration fears in households where residents have different citizenship status. Many Americans think that most Hispanics are not legal residents. However, The US Census Bureau reported that three-quarters of all Hispanics and over 90 percent of Hispanic children are U.S. citizens.
The Mid America Regional Council recently reported that over 100,000 Jackson County residents lack health care coverage. Overall most of those adults are still without health insurance because they cannot afford coverage, are not eligible for ACA, or cannot enroll in Medicaid, Medicare, or other programs. Many working Americans make too much to qualify for some programs but too little to afford to pay for unsubsidized coverage on their own. Many of the uninsured are hardworking but unemployed Americans caught between jobs who will no longer need help after rejoining the workforce.
WHO ARE THE UNINSURED?
A 2015 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study of 1,270 uninsured US adults disclosed:
• Nearly 6 out of 7 are U.S. citizens,
• Most are between 18 and 44,
• They work part-time,
• The unemployed are more likely to be uninsured,
• They are less likely to be disabled than the general population, and
• They have half the income and twice the poverty rate of the KC region.
HELP IS AVAILABLE
Fortunately, for area residents who need medical treatment but lack coverage there is an agency that can help. MetroCare is a nonprofit that assists Missouri residents in obtaining free medical care. This is provided by the generous commitment of local physicians and health care professionals who volunteer to treat a number of the uninsured. MetroCare coordinates patient needs through physicians, hospitals, and the community. This nonprofit private agency relies on relationships with providers and safety net clinics. To improve access for the uninsured MetroCare also works continuously with the Truman Medical Center. Their funding comes from the generous contributions of individuals, foundations, and corporations such as: the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, The Greater Lees Summit Health Care Foundation, and the United Way.
MetroCare was formed in 2007 as a result of research by the Metropolitan Medical Society of Greater Kansas City, Northland Health Care Access and the Center for Practical Bioethics. MetroCare addresses health needs by coordinating pledges to care for the uninsured made by about 600 primary and specialty care professionals. Since inception, they coordinated $21 million in donated care to over 3,000 Clay, Platte, and Jackson County patients. MetroCare ensures that:
• Physicians can serve the uninsured without being overwhelmed,
• The need for Emergency Department visits is minimized,
• Access to diverse specialty care for low-income patients is maximized,
• Uninsured medical costs are reduced through better coordination and,
• A healthier and more productive community workforce is created.
MetroCare also accepts referrals from primary care physicians, and safety net clinics. The organization links uninsured residents of Clay, Platte, and Jackson Counties to charitable physicians. MetroCare also recruits primary care physicians for the uninsured. As of 2015, MetroCare had over 600 providers who made a total of 1,400 charitable pledges.
Doctors and medical professionals in this network provide health care without charge for low-income, uninsured residents. A significant number of physicians in greater Kansas City participate by seeing these patients in their office. Here is how this works:
Patients call the Resource Line: 816-880-6700 for program eligibility screening. (Non-emergency calls only). Candidates must be:
2. Live in Jackson, Clay or Platte County,
3. Have no medical insurance and,
4. Cannot qualify for government medical assistance.
Eligible applicants must sign a responsibility agreement that requires them to be on time for appointments, be respectful and courteous and follow the physician’s treatment plans. Patients are reevaluated every six months and remain in the program as long as they meet eligibility criteria and follow agency rules.
MetroCare Coordinators assign patients to a primary care medical home, then coordinate and track referrals to specialists, diagnostic testing, medication and any necessary follow-up care. Coordinators manage the referral process to insure physicians are not assigned more patients than their commitment pledge. Many MetroCare patients graduate from the program after finding employment that provides coverage, or qualifying for other programs such as Medicaid, or Medicare, or obtaining coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If you need health care but can’t afford it or know of someone who needs it in Jackson, Clay, or Platte County, call MetroCare’s hotline at 816-880-6700.