Massachusetts Health Insurance Law Leads To Increased Use Of Community Health Centers

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The number of Massachusetts residents visiting community health clinicshas increased over the past year, in part because of the state's new health insurance law, the Boston Globe reports. Kerin O'Toole, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers,said, "We are front and center in the new health care legislation,"adding, "We've seen quite a surge in demand. Although in many cases,patients could go elsewhere, the health centers offer a whole range ofservices you can't get from a private provider."

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Healthcenters offer such services as substance abuse treatment, child andprenatal care, and dental care. In addition, most centers have outreachprograms to help people fill out forms and select health insuranceplans. In 2006, 760,301 patients visited the health centers, anincrease of nearly 94,000 since 2005, the Globe reports.

Alan Sager, director of the health reform program at the Boston University School of Public Health,said part of the reason community centers are seeing more patients isthat three of the four health insurers working with the state's Commonwealth Careprogram tend to direct beneficiaries to the centers. However, Sagersaid he is concerned that the centers might not be able to hire enoughphysicians to meet demand. He asked, "If health centers were deluged bydozens more patients every day, how quickly could they respond?"

B. Dale Magee, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society,said, "The community health centers rely heavily on primary carephysicians, and if there is a shortage in the state, the centers wouldbe exposed to that shortage" (Preer, Boston Globe, 9/27).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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