WBEZ | healthcare http://www.wbez.org/tags/healthcare Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Morning Shift: Exploring options for caring for the elderly http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-16/morning-shift-exploring-options-caring-elderly-110031 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/old Flickr VinothChandar.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We unpack some of the questions surrounding elder care. Also, a conversation with comedian Bob Saget, whose new book swings back and forth between funny and poignant.</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-exploring-options-for-caring-for-the/embed?header=false&border=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-exploring-options-for-caring-for-the.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-exploring-options-for-caring-for-the" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Exploring options for caring for the elderly" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 08:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-16/morning-shift-exploring-options-caring-elderly-110031 First day glitches as Affordable Care Act launches http://www.wbez.org/news/first-day-glitches-affordable-care-act-launches-108822 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/getcoveredillinois.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">The government may have shut down today, but the Affordable Care Act is marching forward. The state website, <a href="http://getcoveredillinois.gov/">Get Covered Illinois,</a> was up by early this morning. And the <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/">federal website,</a> where Illinois residents will shop on the marketplace for coverage, was also live. But many people encountered glitches, delays, and error messages.</p><p dir="ltr">Jose Galarza is the billing manager at the Infant Welfare Society on the Northwest side of Chicago. They don&rsquo;t have health navigators in their offices, but staff did receive training to sign people up on the marketplace and the organization is listed on the government&rsquo;s website<a href="http://getcoveredillinois.gov/get-help/"> as an official resource. </a></p><p dir="ltr">Galarza says his organization has been preparing for today for a long time. This morning he says he was full of nervous energy. &ldquo;I was up at 4:30 a.m. this morning, thinking about this the whole process and what to expect,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">When he got to the office the first thing Galarza did was to go to the website and try to fill out an application. &nbsp;He received error messages and never completed the process. Later, he couldn&rsquo;t get to the application at all and instead received a message that the site was overburned by traffic.</p><p dir="ltr">Galarza&rsquo;s experiences were not unique. Organizations and individuals across the city reported similar problems. Before today&rsquo;s launch officials said that some aspects of the site, such as the Spanish language version and small business site, wouldn&rsquo;t be entirely complete.</p><p dir="ltr">By 9:30 a.m. Galarza says three people called to say they would come in for help that day. &nbsp;&ldquo;I put myself in the client&#39;s shoes. If I am excited and I get myself &nbsp;prepared, and then come into a place like this... and [can&rsquo;t fill out an application], it would be very frustrating,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Illinois Governor Pat Quinn cautioned against judging the Affordable Care Act based on first day problems. &nbsp;&ldquo;We understand with any new program there will be glitches and bumps along the way. When Apple unveils a new device, they may have some minor problems and glitches&hellip; but they go forward. They don&rsquo;t stop and say they will take a year off. They understand how important it is to complete the mission,&rdquo; said Quinn.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite his frustrations, Galarza had a positive message for his clients, one that wasn&rsquo;t that different from the Governor&#39;s. &ldquo;I would say just take a deep breath. We have until December 15th, which is the deadline for your coverage to start on January 1st,&rdquo; said Galarza.</p><p dir="ltr">According to the state, as of 6:00 p.m. more than 76,653 visitors &nbsp;had come to the online marketplace.</p><p>If you run into a problem or need help navigating the website, you can contact the state hotline at 1-866-311-1119.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Wed, 02 Oct 2013 09:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/first-day-glitches-affordable-care-act-launches-108822 Illinois businesses work to sort out the Affordable Care Act http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-businesses-work-sort-out-affordable-care-act-107194 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Illinois businesses are preparing for the Affordable Care Act to go into full effect in 2014, and a leader from the Illinois Chamber of Commerce says some are considering limiting work hours to avoid future healthcare costs. But costs and logistics vary widely across different types of firms.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s one giant puzzle within a puzzle within a puzzle,&rdquo; said Laura Minzer, the Executive Director of the Health Care Council for the for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.</p><p dir="ltr">She says employers, small and large, are scrambling to figure out which provisions of the federal law will apply to them and their employees. Businesses with under 25 employees may become eligible for tax credits for providing health care, while businesses with over 50 workers could face fines if they don&rsquo;t provide affordable insurance for all employees working 30 hours or more.</p><p dir="ltr">The number of workers receiving employer-sponsored health care has declined steadily in recent years. Now, Minzer says limiting employee hours to under 30 is on the table for some bigger businesses worried about new health care costs.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The cost of their benefits is not going down and it will not go down with this law,&rdquo; said Minzer. Indeed, insurance premiums have been steadily rising, and experts expect to see a continued rise nationwide. But cuts to hours may be nothing new: the proportion of workers in part-time jobs has been on the rise since 2007.</p><p dir="ltr">One in five adults in Illinois is currently uninsured, and if they can&rsquo;t get employer insurance, some will become eligible for government subsidies through the &ldquo;marketplace&rdquo; (formerly known as the exchange), which is a state and/or federally-run service intended to centralize and streamline shopping for private health insurance. Sliding scale subsidies in the form of tax credits will be available to those making up to four times the federal poverty level. Currently, Illinois has agreed to an insurance marketplace run jointly by Illinois and the federal government, but Minzer says the Chamber of Commerce supports opening a state-run marketplace by 2015.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Even with all the concerns that we have about affordability, we see value in...the fact that you have a one-stop-shop for health insurance,&rdquo; said Minzer. &ldquo;The state is in a better position to administer that.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">States also have the option to expand Medicaid eligibility to adults making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, an option that&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-begins-enrolling-250000-new-medicaid-recipients-103902">already being piloted in Cook County</a>. However, because of a controversial Supreme Court decision, states can opt out of the Medicaid expansion, and Illinois has yet to pass a bill that would expand Medicaid statewide in 2014.</p><p dir="ltr">Perhaps surprisingly, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce also supports the Medicaid expansion.</p><p dir="ltr">That&rsquo;s because there&rsquo;s a benefit for business: employees who receive Medicaid would do so without triggering penalties for their big employers (as opposed to seeking out insurance through the marketplace, which would trigger penalties). Recent reports have found that larger businesses have a financial incentive to support Medicaid expansion and avoid fees for not providing health insurance to low-income employees.</p><p dir="ltr">Bills to expand Medicaid and to establish a state-run insurance marketplace are creeping through the Illinois General Assembly, and the federal/state insurance marketplace is slated to open October 1, 2014.</p><p>Lewis Wallace is a Pritzker Journalism Fellow at WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/lewispants">@lewispants</a>.</p></p> Thu, 16 May 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-businesses-work-sort-out-affordable-care-act-107194 10 Years since Iraq: The Changing Face of War http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/10-years-iraq-changing-face-war-107190 <p><p>This program to mark the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003, includes a panel of speakers addressing the changing face of war. Abroad, the US&#39; increased use of drones for &quot;targeted killings&quot; in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians. Here in the US, deadly cuts continue to be imposed on domestic programs in order to fund the Pentagon&#39;s excessive spending and line the pockets of wealthy corporations, such as Boeing. The fights for public education, housing, and healthcare are intricately tied to the fights against war and imperialism.</p><p><strong>Peter Lems</strong> is a leader in the American Friends Service Committee anti-drone effort. <strong>Kait McIntyre</strong> of the Anti-War Committee speaks about the local campaign targeting Boeing. <strong>Vince Emanuele</strong>, of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, served two tours in Iraq.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AFSC-webstory_7.jpg" style="float: left;" title="" /></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><br />Recorded live Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at Grace Place.&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 20 Mar 2013 15:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/10-years-iraq-changing-face-war-107190 Adjunct professors demand inclusion in health care reforms http://www.wbez.org/news/adjunct-professors-demand-inclusion-health-care-reforms-106034 <p><p>Starting in January 2014, large employers will be required to give health benefits to people who work at least 30 hours a week. The provision of the federal Affordable Care Act applies to anyone with more than 50 full-time employees &ndash; including all of Illinois&#39; community colleges.</p><p>Now some adjunct professors are worried they&rsquo;ll have their hours cut by colleges who don&rsquo;t want to shell out the cash come January.</p><p>Dennis Polkow joined a group of protesters Friday outside the Westin Hotel, where Illinois community college leaders were holding a weekend gathering. After working at Oakton Community College for 13 years, he&rsquo;s teaching 3 classes this semester and making less than 12 thousand dollars, he says, with no benefits<b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">. </span></b>Like many other adjuncts, Polkow often juggles jobs at several colleges to make ends meet.</p><p>He said when he heard about the health care bill, &ldquo;I thought, hallelujah, affordable health care act. I&rsquo;ll be able to get affordable health care. Instead it&rsquo;s like...cut, cut, cut, cut, cut.&rdquo;</p><p>Polkow&rsquo;s one of the people who&rsquo;d be covered under Obamacare. But this February he found out Oakton may limit adjunct course loads in preparation for the health care law to kick in.</p><p>The college caught flack from faculty over memos that circulated about limiting adjunct course hours, and now Oakton Community College President Peg Lee says nothing&rsquo;s been decided.</p><p>&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t even know how to define the number of hours,&rdquo; she said Friday.</p><p>Adjuncts are paid by the course hour rather than by hours worked, and federal guidelines for calculating who will get coverage are still under review. Lee says whatever the calculations, community colleges are already strapped for cash. Governor Quinn&rsquo;s 2014 budget slashes higher education by five percent, and Lee says Oakton&rsquo;s still waiting on state reimbursement checks from last year. Sequestration cuts could also limit the numbers of students bringing federal aid into the community college system.</p><p>&ldquo;As much as I believe in universal health care and a single payer, we can&rsquo;t be that universal health care and single payer provider,&rdquo; Lee said. &ldquo;We just don&rsquo;t have the money.&rdquo;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7114_051-scr.JPG" style="height: 187px; width: 280px; float: right;" title="Peg Lee (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p>It&rsquo;s unclear whether most community colleges will adopt the practice of cutting adjunct hours to avoid Obamacare costs.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re learning what the rules are and how they impact employees and employers, and the decisions that need to be made,&rdquo; said Mike Monaghan, director of the Illinois Community College Trustees Association. &ldquo;We have lots more work to do.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, he said the adjuncts&rsquo; concerns are legitimate.</p><p>&ldquo;Everybody has reason to be concerned, whether you&rsquo;re an employee or an employer,&rdquo; Monaghan said. &ldquo;Any additional expense puts pressure on declining budgets.&rdquo;</p><p>Cuts are already in place at Joliet Junior College (JJC).&nbsp;In anticipation of the health care reforms, the administration has placed a cap of six course hours per semester on all adjuncts&rsquo; schedules beginning this summer. At the protest Friday, JJC adjuncts&rsquo; union president Al Kennedy spoke quietly but urgently&nbsp;about the effect of the cuts on some union members.</p><p>&ldquo;Are they going to be able to pay their rent for their apartment? Are they gonna be able to put food on the table for the kids? They&rsquo;re just beside themselves,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>JJC stands by the decision, saying that planning for a law they still have so little information about is a balancing act.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7116_019-scr.JPG" style="height: 201px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Steven Brody (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" />&ldquo;I think this is just one of the sort of byproducts of this law,&rdquo; said JJC spokesperson Kelly Rohder.</p><p>But to protester Steven Brody, also an Oakton adjunct, this is about &nbsp;more than a fight over health care.</p><p>&ldquo;This is simply the first reaction of every one of these colleges to having to finally come to grips with the fact that they overutilize and underpay their adjunct faculty,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><a href="http://www.academicworkforce.org/CAW_portrait_2012.pdf" target="_blank">A recent study</a> found that three quarters of college classes nationwide are taught by part-time or adjunct instructors, a dramatic shift from the 1970s when the majority of classes were taught by tenured faculty. Average pay for adjunct professors adds up to just over $20,000 a year for eight courses total, and most of the positions don&rsquo;t come with health insurance.</p><p><em>Follow <a href="https://twitter.com/LewisPants" target="_blank">Lewis Wallace on Twitter</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 11 Mar 2013 16:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/adjunct-professors-demand-inclusion-health-care-reforms-106034 Business owner gets 10 years for health care fraud http://www.wbez.org/news/business-owner-gets-10-years-health-care-fraud-104528 <p><p>A federal judge has sentenced a suburban Chicago man to 10 years in prison for defrauding Medicare of more than $2.9 million in a home health-care scheme.</p><p>U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras handed down the sentence Thursday against Bahir Haj Khalil of Palos Heights. He also ordered Khalil to pay restitution and forfeit his assets.</p><p>Authorities say the 34-year-old Khalil was co-owner and executive manager of House Call Physicians, a home health business that submitted tens of thousands of false claims for unnecessary medical services.</p><p>Khalil was convicted in September. He&#39;s the last of three defendants to be sentenced.</p><p>The judge says he wants the sentence to send the message that such crimes will be treated harshly. Prosecutors say Khalil preyed on elderly victims and used them to enrich himself.</p></p> Fri, 21 Dec 2012 08:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/business-owner-gets-10-years-health-care-fraud-104528 Uninsured patients sue Chicago nonprofit hospital http://www.wbez.org/news/uninsured-patients-sue-chicago-nonprofit-hospital-104105 <p><p>A lawsuit filed Thursday claims a nonprofit hospital in northwest Chicago failed to provide charity care to two low-income, uninsured patients, reopening a longstanding controversy in Illinois over whether hospitals are doing enough charitable work to qualify for lucrative tax exemptions.</p><p>Swedish Covenant Hospital repeatedly lost one patient&#39;s financial assistance application and threatened to send her bill to a collection agency, according to the lawsuit. The hospital incorrectly told another patient she was ineligible for assistance and demanded cash from her, the complaint alleges.</p><p>The practices amount to &quot;bureaucratic barriers&quot; that prevent eligible patients from getting free care, according to the lawsuit, and the hospital has a policy of attempting to collect from &quot;even the poorest of patients&quot; through bill collectors and wage garnishment.</p><p>The hospital gets about $8 million in annual tax breaks and owes the community a more reliable charity care system, the plaintiffs&#39; attorney Alan Alop of the legal services group LAF said at a press conference Thursday in Chicago. The lawsuit claims unfair practices under the Illinois consumer fraud law and seeks $50,000 in punitive damages and a change in hospital policy.</p><p>Swedish Covenant spokeswoman Leigh Ginther said Thursday she couldn&#39;t comment on the lawsuit, but she said every patient who is identified as uninsured is given an application for charity care and a personal explanation of the process.</p><p>&quot;It is the patient&#39;s responsibility to return the completed paperwork,&quot; Ginther said. The hospital reported $6.2 million in charity care expenses last year, nearly 3 percent of its net revenue.</p><p>Nearly 2 million Illinois residents are uninsured, or about 15 percent. The state constitution, court decisions and state law require Illinois hospitals that receive tax exemptions to provide charity care, but until this year the definition of charity wasn&#39;t clear.</p><p>The lawsuit comes as Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is writing new standards on hospital charity care as required by a law passed earlier this year.</p><p>A Chicago-based advocacy group, the Fair Care Coalition, wants Madigan to recommend that a standard, universal financial assistance application be used by all Illinois hospitals. The group also wants a thorough reporting mechanism so the public can check that hospitals are obeying the law, said Janna Simon of the coalition.</p><p>At the press conference, plaintiff Ramona Ortiz-Patino described filling out multiple applications for financial assistance and later being told the hospital hadn&#39;t received them. An unemployed diabetic, she was facing charges for emergency room visits for extreme pain in her right leg.</p><p>After Ortiz-Patino submitted a third application, a hospital employee telephoned her and &quot;let me know that my bill would be going to collections because I hadn&#39;t paid it,&quot; she said. &quot;I didn&#39;t understand why the hospital was threatening me when they knew I had zero income and I submitted three applications&quot; for financial assistance.</p><p>How much charity care should nonprofit hospitals provide? The issue has been brewing for years in Illinois.</p><p>In 2009, two large Illinois hospital systems settled class-action lawsuits that claimed they had overcharged uninsured patients. In separate settlements, Resurrection Health Care and Advocate Health Care agreed to pay refunds to tens of thousands of individuals.</p><p>Next, a 2010 Illinois Supreme Court ruling suggested nonprofit hospitals that behave like businesses shouldn&#39;t qualify for tax exemptions. Citing that court decision, the state Department of Revenue denied tax exemptions to three hospitals in 2011 and signaled more denials for other hospitals could follow.</p><p>That set off a storm of controversy the Legislature addressed this year.</p><p>Nonprofit hospitals won a broad definition of charity care from Springfield in a new state law that will allow them to continue their tax-exempt status. Hospitals were required to provide free care to patients of certain income levels, and the attorney general was directed to write standards for hospital financial assistance applications.</p></p> Thu, 29 Nov 2012 10:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/uninsured-patients-sue-chicago-nonprofit-hospital-104105 Cook County begins enrolling 250,000 new Medicaid recipients http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-begins-enrolling-250000-new-medicaid-recipients-103902 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Dr Raju Headshot 2012.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>This week Cook County will start sending letters to about 115,000 of its low-income residents inviting them to enroll in the county&rsquo;s new Medicaid program.</p><p>Adults under 65 with an income of up to 133% of the <a href="http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/figures-fed-reg.shtml">federal poverty level</a> will be eligible for Medicaid beginning in 2014 in states that choose to participate in the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion.</p><p>In Cook County, the expanded eligibility will begin even sooner, in January 2013. Cook County applied for and received a federal waiver to let the law kick in a year early.</p><p>&ldquo;We are excited not only because we got the waiver, we also get an opportunity to transform our healthcare system into the way it should be,&rdquo; said Dr. Ram Raju, CEO of Cook County Health Services.</p><p>The new Medicaid program, called County Care, will operate on a &ldquo;medical home&rdquo; model - which means the county&rsquo;s patients would have a doctor, a nurse, a social worker, and a medical assistant assigned to manage their health care.</p><p>&ldquo;What we do in the old model is, if you come through the door, you are my problem, I&rsquo;ll treat you well, I&rsquo;ll give you prescriptions. Then, you are not my problem until you come back next time six months later,&rdquo; said Dr. Raju. &ldquo;In the medical home model, even when you go home, you are still my responsibility.&rdquo;</p><p>To begin enrollment County Care, the county plans to reach out to every single eligible person currently on its books.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a massive task, because it is a lot of people we need to reach within a short period of time,&rdquo; said Dr. Raju. &ldquo;But one good advantage is that most of the people are already in our system.&rdquo;</p><p>A total of about 250,000 people in Cook County are probably eligible for County Care, but the county first plans to make contact with those who have already come through the Cook County system or one of its community health centers. After Nov. 26, low-income adults who are not already on the books will be able to call to find out whether they are eligible.</p><p><strong>County Care to provide mental health and substance abuse services</strong></p><p>Medicaid is generally administered by states, but the federal waiver offered under Obamacare allowed counties to apply to create Medicaid programs jointly operated by the county and the federal government. The costs of the expanded coverage under County Care bypass the Illinois&rsquo; <a href="http://will.illinois.edu/news/spotstory/ill.-house-votes-to-slash-medicaid-funding/">fiscally rocky Medicaid system</a>&nbsp;&ndash; they&rsquo;re split between the county and the federal government.</p><p>Come 2014, eligible people will be able to leave County Care and enroll in Medicaid through the state of Illinois. County Care patients are required to go to a provider within the county&rsquo;s network of hospitals and affiliated Federally Qualified Health Centers, whereas recipients of state Medicaid can go to any doctor that accepts Medicaid.</p><p>But Dr. Raju said he hopes that by then, they will want to choose County Care. In addition to setting up patients in a &ldquo;medical home&rdquo;, County Care will provide mental health and substance abuse services, which Illinois Medicaid currently does not cover. The lack of mental health services in the region has been a topic of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/dart-%E2%80%98we%E2%80%99re-criminalizing-mental-health%E2%80%99-102218">ongoing controversy</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;If there are substance abuse issues, we do not want them to get lost in the system,&rdquo; he said. And he thinks the medical home model should be in use around the country. &ldquo;We believe that is the future of the healthcare delivery model in this country.&rdquo;</p></p> Mon, 19 Nov 2012 00:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-begins-enrolling-250000-new-medicaid-recipients-103902 Community health centers prepare for influx of new patients under Obamacare http://www.wbez.org/news/community-health-centers-prepare-influx-new-patients-under-obamacare-103877 <p><p>Medical providers are preparing for an avalanche of new patients as the federal health-care overhaul becomes a reality in Cook County.</p><p>One in five adults in Cook County is currently without health insurance, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates that all Americans access health insurance of some kind beginning in 2014.</p><p>&ldquo;The population that&rsquo;s coming into coverage hasn&rsquo;t been consumers of the service,&rdquo; said Warren Brodine, CEO of Chicago Family Health Centers (CFHC). &ldquo;So I&rsquo;d submit that none of us really knows how to care for that population completely. We don&rsquo;t know what their preferences are. Are we gonna need to be providing primary care at 10 o&rsquo;clock at night? That very well may be the case.&rdquo;</p><p>Illinois has already turned in its blueprint for an exchange, a state-run marketplace for private insurance that will also help connect low-income people to federal aid. And Cook County is planning to expand Medicaid coverage to 115,000 new patients beginning in January 2013.</p><p>What remains unclear to many &ndash; including providers themselves &ndash; is just how many new patients will start flooding the health system as soon as six weeks from now, when Cook County begins its Medicaid expansion.</p><p>&ldquo;Even without the Affordable Care Act people are really struggling to get appointments in a timely manner,&rdquo; said Kimberley Tester Smathers of Heartland Health Centers. Medicaid patients are subject to long waits because their options are limited; Illinois&rsquo; Medicaid reimbursements are&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/The-312/February-2012/Illinois-Medicaid-Mess/">notoriously slow</a>.</p><p>In Cook County alone, over 800,000 currently uninsured people will be required to get insurance or pay a fee in 2014; many will be eligible for subsidies. But whether it&rsquo;s Medicaid or private insurance that covers their visits to the doctor, the newly insured will still need a place to get care.</p><p><strong>Community health centers prepare to fill the gap</strong></p><p>Hundreds of community health centers across the country have received ACA funding since 2010 to build new facilities and expand capacity.&nbsp;Two years after the ACA funds first started to flow,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ahschicago.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/groundbreaking_press_release10-12.pdf">new health centers</a>&nbsp;are popping up with regularity across the&nbsp;<a href="http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=208153">city</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://evanston.patch.com/articles/community-health-center-opens-in-evanston">suburbs</a>.</p><p>CFHC is currently building a new health center in Pullman funded by a $6.2 million grant under the ACA. It takes up an entire city block, and will replace an outdated facility nearby. The facility, expected to open in summer of 2013, will have the capacity to serve 10,000 new patients per year.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6668_Picture - 11.16.11 247-scr_0.jpg" style="height: 233px; width: 310px; float: right;" title="Laying the final beam at the CFHC's new Pullman site (Bulley &amp; Andrews Construction/Charles Weatherington)" /></p><p>But Brodine has no idea just how many newly insured people will flock to his organization&rsquo;s five South Side locations - or precisely what their needs will be.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re pretty sure there&rsquo;s quite a bit of pent-up demand in underserved communities, people who today drop in at an emergency department when they have some urgent need that really should have been taken care of in the context of a primary care relationship,&rdquo; he said.</p><div><p>CFHC serves 28,000 low-income Chicagoans at five South Side locations; more than half of their patients are on Medicaid, and only 4 percent have private insurance.</p><p>The federal government&#39;s long-term goal is to help expand the capacity of community health centers by 20 million &ndash; double what they serve now. Nearly&nbsp;<a href="http://healthreform.kff.org/federal-funds-tracker.aspx">&nbsp;$80 million in federal funds has already been doled out in I</a><a href="http://healthreform.kff.org/federal-funds-tracker.aspx">llinois</a>, and in 2012 alone, the Department of Health and Human Services made grants for the creation of 219 new sites nationwide.</p><p>Community health centers, also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), are non-profits tasked with providing primary care at sliding scale rates. These health centers were first created nationwide in 1965 and they are required to accept Medicaid and Medicare; most also receive federal grant funding. Many of Chicago&rsquo;s FQHCs have been providing care for low-income people for thirty or forty years.</p><p>FQHCs are used to taking on the uninsured. But now, they also need to plan ahead to be able to help patients get on insurance under the ACA, even though it is not entirely clear yet how the insurance exchange will work.</p><p>&ldquo;Some of those questions are just starting to be answered on the logistics level,&rdquo; said Smathers. &ldquo;But this is all really confusing. It&rsquo;s confusing for me, and I can&rsquo;t imagine how confusing the insurance options might be for our patients.&rdquo;</p></div><div><strong>A shift from response to prevention</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Brodine said the state of Illinois has dragged its feet more than some states on setting up its insurance exchange and making it clear how healthcare providers will be involved in enrollment.</div><p>But to him, implementing Affordable Care is not just about increasing the number of health centers and doctors.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6671_IMG_4609-scr.JPG" style="height: 218px; width: 290px; float: left;" title="Chicago Family Health Center CEO Warren Brodine (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" />&ldquo;An insurance card is not enough; it&rsquo;s only half the equation.&rdquo; The other half of the equation is a transition to a system in which nearly everyone has primary care &ndash; and knows how to use it. As Mitt Romney&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/election-2012/wp/2012/09/24/romney-calls-emergency-room-a-health-care-option-for-uninsured/">reminded us</a>&nbsp;during the 2012 presidential campaign, the emergency room has long been the fall-back of the uninsured. Community health clinics will be tasked with convincing people to come to them for preventive care, rather than waiting until they already have severe health conditions.</p><p>CFHC has already brought in 1,500 new patients through a program focused on hypertension. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, has a disproportionate impact on youth of color, particularly young men. Hypertension can be easily treated if a doctor catches the signs early. And it affects a group that is unlikely to be going to the doctor preventively right now.</p><p>&ldquo;We very purposefully targeted this program toward individuals who we know would be covered in 2014, so that when they have coverage...they already know us,&rdquo; said Brodine. The project should help young people get used to preventive care and treatment, and in the process, help them get used to the idea of having a primary care physician before they become eligible for insurance.</p><p>Brodine also predicted the new healthcare model will lead to an increased focus on the quality and outcomes of preventive care.</p><p>&quot;We need to flip it around to a preventive approach, where people are exercising, people are eating right, people can get fresh fruits and vegetables in their local communities,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And you can&rsquo;t take away the issues of things like housing adequacy and violence as real contributors to health. Those things are going to have to be addressed in a coordinated way.&rdquo;</p><p>All of which means it&rsquo;s an exciting time to be in the business of running community health clinics, whose mandate since their creation has been to provide community-centered care in low-income areas. If Affordable Care works out the way he hopes, Brodine said he&rsquo;ll finally see some of his own dreams for community healthcare realized.</p><p>&ldquo;We want the &lsquo;health center&rsquo; to take that name,&rdquo; said Brodine, &ldquo;and mean more than a beefed up doctor&rsquo;s office, but your center of health in the community.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 16 Nov 2012 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/community-health-centers-prepare-influx-new-patients-under-obamacare-103877 Quinn signs law mandating online physician profiles http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-signs-law-mandating-online-physician-profiles-90392 <p><p>Patients in Illinois will soon be able to look up information about their doctors online. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the Patients' Right to Know Act into law Tuesday, mandating that all physicians who practice in Illinois have online profiles that include any history of criminal activity or medical malpractice suits.</p><p>Brent Adams, secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, will be overseeing the enforcement of this law.</p><p>"Everyone is entitled to be able to provide informed consent to medical treatment, not just informed as to the procedure or medication, but informed as to who is recommending that course of treatment."</p><p>The web profiles aren't entirely new. They were first introduced as part of a medical malpractice reform package in 2008. The Illinois Supreme Court struck down the broader reforms 2 years later, saying the package was unconstitutional. Lawmakers have since pushed for the web profiles as part of state oversight of doctors.</p><p>State Representative Mary Flowers, author of the bill, said the Illinois Supreme Court didn't identify the web profiles as unconstitutional as part of their ruling.</p><p>"Our supreme court ruled the caps on medical malpractice was unconstitutional, and there was a clause in there that said that if one part of the bill failed, the whole bill failed," Flowers said. "But the supreme court never once said that there was anything wrong with the portion of the bill that the patient should still have the right to know."</p><p>Adams said the web profiles were a popular service during their short lifetime. According to his count, the profiles received 150,000 hits per week from over 42,000 unique users. He said the updated website will be up and running in about two months, and he estimates more than 46,0000 licensed physicians will be listed on the site.</p><p>The Patients' Right to Know Act was one of four healthcare bills signed by Governor Quinn Tuesday. The other three will require insurance coverage of diabetes management education programs; improve dental care for children; and&nbsp; increase education on preventative cardiovascular screenings.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 09 Aug 2011 21:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-signs-law-mandating-online-physician-profiles-90392