While many medical practices in Snohomish County are experiencing a drop-off in patients (“Clinic visits dropping,” July 5), Community Health Center of Snohomish County and other community health centers across the state are experiencing dramatic increases in the number of patients coming through their doors.
When people lose their health insurance, they often turn to safety-net providers – community health centers and hospital ERs, both of which have seen a significant rise in uninsured patients in recent years. During the first six months of 2004, CHC saw 17 percent more patients than during the first six months of 2002. The increase in uninsured patients during this same time period was much more dramatic – a 58 percent increase.
It is not just the uninsured and economically disadvantaged members of our community who seek care at community health centers. People who do not have access to affordable health insurance or have no insurance due to job loss or cutbacks in state-funded plans are finding their way to our doors. Lack of insurance and increasing costs for those with insurance cause people to delay both preventive and critical care. A recent statewide survey showed that 73 percent of uninsured patients say they would avoid care due to cost.
The fact that other providers are seeing fewer patients while CHCs patient load is increasing suggests that there is a real need for the safety net – keeping the community healthy by providing access to health care for those who need it.
Kenneth M. Green, Director
Community Health Center of Snohomish County