This week, specifically Monday, March 31st, is a big day for most Americans. Not only does the open enrollment for the 2014 health insurance coverage end, but also coinciding with ObamaCare’s 2014 deadline is the closing of the Morgan/Scott Volunteer Health Clinic. June of this year would have completed 17 years of service from the clinic located at Passavant Hospital. Dr. James Hinchen, current and final President of the clinic’s Board of Directors, explained that when they initially opened the clinic, the idea was for a temporary solution to help manage health care for our Morgan or Scott County individuals who were employed, had no available health insurance, and met the federal government’s income guidelines — expecting that the government would soon create a health insurance program for those in need. Hinchen justified the closing, contending that “with the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the vast majority of our patients are eligible for Medicaid and can select their own physician. Our original intent was to be a bridge until this happened, and now it is here.”
In the meantime, the Morgan/Scott Volunteer Health Clinic was open from 6-9pm each Monday to provide medical services by consultants such as local doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, general surgeons, ophthalmologists, OB/GYNs, clerical support, and more — all of whom gave of their time and expertise at no charge. The program did ask for a donation from patients, but the outpouring of support from many, including Passavant’s Women’s Auxiliary, United Way, Ambucs, churches, grants, and individuals enabled those who couldn’t afford care the access to a necessary resource. Additionally, Passavant Hospital gifted space for the clinic, lab work, x-rays, and hospital admission.
One might think the closing of the clinic somewhat premature, what with the delays and complications in the rollout of ObamaCare, but Hinchen assures that “there is a capacity in the community that when the clinic’s patients try to find a physician, that won’t be a problem.” And he explained that steps have been taken to help them. A survey of clients reported around 700 visits to the clinic over the past year (that breaks down to an average of 13 people each Monday clinic); however, most patients attended for management of a chronic illness, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Moreover, Hinchen says that at least 6 months ago, the clinic “started tapering down to the point that we don’t see as many people.” The combination of referring people to other medical care and also having the Community Integrated Living Arrangement Program (CILA) visit over the last month to help the remaining patients enroll in ObamaCare makes a case for a smooth transition after the last Volunteer Health Clinic on Monday, March 31, from 6-9pm.
Hinchen said he will be present during the final clinic and states that he has a “warming feeling about this community and how we’ve pulled together to help those in need.” He is proud that many Board Members and consultants stayed with the clinic throughout the almost 17 years and mentions, too, that the remaining funds will be put toward continued patient care. Hinchen seems touched by what the clinic has been able to accomplish and adds, “we would just like to thank Passavant and everyone that has supported us throughout the years, either by volunteering or monetary donations.”