From WILL - The Public Square -

Aurora Arias on the upcoming Health Care Access Community Meeting

My name is Aurora Arias and I am a senior in community health at the University of Illinois and am currently completing my internship at Champaign County Health Care Consumers.

Health care is increasingly becoming a top priority in national and state politics. While our elected officials need to address the important topic of quality, affordable health care for all, Champaign County Health Care Consumers continues to advocate for much needed changes in the local health care system. Changes must be made to ensure that all local residents have access to basic health care services.

Champaign County is home to two non-profit hospitals and two large physician group practices as well as a very small health care clinic for the medically undeserved. Despite our county's ample supply of health care providers, too many Champaign County residents who are uninsured or who have Medicaid insurance do not have access to primary health care. This lack of access is a crisis for these individuals and our community. Estimates indicate that approximately 40% of Champaign County's population is effectively locked out of the health care system.

These residents cannot get an appointment to see a doctor in our community when they need one, and they cannot get medically-necessary surgeries and other procedures. Many of these people have health problems that have already been diagnosed through visits to a hospital emergency room or because they did have access to health care at some point in the past few years - for example, they need a simple surgery to remove a cyst or they need oral surgery to remove a damaged tooth that keeps giving them infections, or they just need their blood pressure medications reviewed and refilled. Those are just a few examples from the hundreds of calls the Consumer Health Hotline receives every month from local residents unable to get the health care they need.

Carle Clinic and Christie Clinic, where over 90% of Champaign County's doctors work, continue to limit or refuse care to uninsured patients and patients with Medicaid insurance. Frances Nelson Community Health Center does not have the capacity to serve the great majority of these patients. The local crisis in health care access is a result of the concentration of services at our two clinics whose similar policies restrict access. Champaign County cannot be a healthy, productive community unless all residents have access to quality, affordable health care services.

Champaign County Health Care Consumers invites community members who would like to learn more about the local crisis in health care access to attend a community meeting next week on Thursday, April 12, at 6:00 p.m. at Provena Covenant Hospital. CCHCC is joined by several co-sponsors for this meeting including: Provena Covenant Medical Center, Carle Foundation Hospital, Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, and the City of Champaign Township.

The meeting program will include additional information about the local crisis in health care access, the role of health care providers and the state of Illinois, and how the community can work together to end this crisis. CCHCC believes that together we can fashion a local solution to this crisis.

To RSVP for this meeting, or for more information, contact CCHCC at 217-352-6533 or check out the CCHCC website at www [dot] health care consumers [dot] org. If you cannot access health care services and need help, call the Consumer Health Hotline at 217-352-6533 to speak with an advocate.