Low-Cost Healthcare Fills Critical Gap - NBC Bay Area

Low-Cost Healthcare Fills Critical Gap

Community clinics help those who have lost jobs and health insurance



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    About one in five Californians have no health insurance, and many of them are forgoing treatment because they can’t afford it.

    The good news is there are alternatives that can help you get the healthcare you need, while you are getting back on your feet.

    Peter Zec has no health insurance. His insurer dropped him, after he got sick, he said.

    “It was upsetting it was shocking. They told me that I knew I had hypertension when I applied, which is not true, I did not know. And they just insisted that I did and they were dropping me for that reason,” Zec said.

    Shortly after, the real estate market tanked and his home appraisal business went under.

    Then, he found out that he had diabetes.

    “I had to get my medicine, and I needed a doctor for that,” Zec said.

    An estimated 9 million people lost their health insurance in 2010, many because they lost jobs, others because they just couldn’t afford it anymore.

    For them, it’s a struggle to find care for what they need.

    Zec went untreated for months. Then he came to the Sun Valley Health Center, which is one of more than 140 non-profit community health clinics operating in Los Angeles County.

    The community clinics fill a growing need, said Jan Marquard, clinic administrator of Sun Valley Health Center.

    “Right now we are the safety gap. Community health centers are really the safety gap. We’re the ones who take care of people who can’t get other types of insurance,” Marquard said.

    A third of the patients who come here have no insurance. Enrollers here work with patients to find a policy or program to help pay for care.

    “Usually we can enroll them in some kind of health insurance. We never turn anybody away. If someone doesn’t qualify, maybe they make a little bit too much money, we can put them on a sliding fee scale,” Marquard said.

    “It’s absolutely fantastic for a person like me that doesn’t have any means yet needs medication, and I’m trying to get on my feet, but I haven’t been able to,” Zec said.

    Zec sees his doctor once every three months and gets his meds. He is getting better and hopes to be back on his feet soon, and get back to business.

    “I probably wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for this place. I would not be alive,” he said.