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Community health centers like Cass ‘major players’ in any reform scenario

Published 8:24am Wednesday, August 12, 2009

By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News

CASSOPOLIS – Ron Francis, R-Cassopolis, vice chairman of the Cass County Board of Commissioners, was quick to ask Cassopolis Family Clinic Executive Director Mary Geegan Middleton about health care reform Tuesday at a luncheon celebrating her agency’s 45th anniversary.

Obviously, she and other doctors and public health officials in attendance are watching congressional debate and the cavalcade of heated townhall meetings carefully.
Middleton noted that Cassopolis Family Clinic belongs to the National Association of Community Health Centers.

“It has representation on some of those committees planning health care reform,” she remarked. “I don’t know, as none of us do, how that’s all going to fall out, but we believe community health centers will be major players in whatever health reform there is. Many of the patients that we see are not patients that private practitioners are out searching for like we are,” though “if everybody all of a sudden has insurance, they may be.”

“But we also think patients go to the doctor that they really like, so we’re hoping our patients stay with us,” Middleton added.

“Like Mary says, I think (community health centers) are going to be big players. I don’t have any doubt about that at all,” agreed Dr. Frederick Johansen, medical director of the Van Buren/Cass County District Public Health Department of Cassopolis and Hartford.
“They’re the safety net provider for people who don’t have access anywhere else,” Middleton said. “If people can’t get access to reduced fees, they end up going to the emergency department for really expensive care.”

“Lakeland Regional Health System has a meeting coming up next week that they’ve invited us to,” she said. “They want us to join with them to see if there’s something further we can do in Niles to create a medical home for people who are inappropriately using the Niles ER. We’re expecting to have that conversation with them. There are a lot of patients who could be served in a center like ours for much less.”

Francis also inquired whether Cassopolis Family Clinic serves undocumented workers.
“No,” she said. “Actually, we have a very small population of Spanish-speaking migrant workers. Intercare Community Health Network has a migrant health center and I think a lot of the temporary farm workers in our area tend to go to Intercare. We have some Laotians and Vietnamese.”

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