The Public Square

Cynthia McDonnell on affordable health care for all


The residents of Champaign County are experiencing a massive crisis in access to health care. Close to 40% of our residents are locked out of the health care system. The crisis began in 2003, when both major physician clinics in Champaign County, Carle Clinic and Christie Clinic, began enacting policies that limit or deny appointments and services to patients without insurance, patients with Medicaid insurance and patients who are insured but have medical debt.

Together, Carle and Christie Clinics house more than 90% of the doctors in Champaign County. As a result, these patients have virtually nowhere else to go for primary or specialty health care. When health care providers discriminate against people who have Medicaid insurance or people without insurance, the whole community pays a price. Community health and productivity is affected as people miss school and work due to untreated illnesses. When their illnesses progress, patients often end up in the emergency departments of our local hospitals, which is the most expensive form of health care for patients, but also results in higher costs of health care for everyone.

In response to the access to care crisis, the Champaign County Health Care Consumers started the Health Care Access Task Force which is comprised of community members who are dedicated to working to end the crisis and create a lasting solution that guarantees quality, affordable health care for all Champaign County residents. Solutions to the health care access issue will have to be sought at the local, state, and federal levels, but one solution is clear. Carle Clinic and Christie Clinic must change their policies that discriminate against the 75,000 people in Champaign County who have Medicaid insurance or lack insurance. While Carle Clinic has publicly promised the community that it would expand access to care for people with Medicaid and All Kids insurance, it has been sending letters to pregnant women, clearly stating that if they intend to use insurance provided through Medicaid, they will have to go somewhere else for their prenatal care. This is just one recent example of a category of patients affected by Carle Clinic's practices.

The Health Care Access Task Force is protesting Carle Clinic to demand an end to its harmful and discriminatory policies. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we are asking Carle Clinic to open its doors to the thousands of Champaign County residents who would be thankful to finally have access to timely, affordable health care this season.

Please join us in a Thanksgiving protest at Carle Clinic on University Avenue in Urbana, on Tuesday, Nov. 20, from 11a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Together we can create a healthy community in which everyone has access to health care.