I don’t know how many of you might have heard this report on NPR’s Morning Edition about the Maple City Health Care Center in Goshen, but it underscores the need for health insurance reform while also discussing the dangers to health that come with the massive unemployment situation in Northeast Indiana.
It is the inspiring story of the More than Money program which helps people work off their medical bills with community service.
Last fall, when the unemployment rate in Elkhart County, Indiana, topped 10 percent, clinic workers began noticing that patients weren’t showing up for appointments. Turns out they couldn’t even come up with a few bucks for an office visit.
So James Gingrich, the clinic’s medical director, decided to tap his patients’ skills and resources instead. The clinic began offering $10 an hour toward health care if a patient volunteered at another non-profit organization.
Stephany Celis, new mom to son Bradon Alexander, wondered how, without health insurance, she would pay for her prenatal care seven months ago. That’s when she heard about the clinic’s More Than Money program.
Celis volunteered at a low-cost health care agency to pay for all of her prenatal care.
The popularity of the program has led to more than 350 hours of community service logged by more than 30 patients. The Maple City Health Care Center explains the program like this on their website:
At Maple City Health Care Center, low-income people who have no insurance are eligible for sliding fee discounts. Some families pay no more than 10% of the cost of their health care.
With the recent economy, however, some families are unable to pay even 10%. Because Maple City’s mission is to foster a healthy community, the staff and board decided that building the community is worth more than money.
Now, patients who cannot afford to pay money can pay for their health care by volunteering for community organizations. A variety of organizations have agreed to use Maple City’s volunteers. Some of the organizations include La Casa, Chamberlain School, Habitat for Humanity, and The Window.
“This is not charity,” Jennifer Hire, Maple City’s General Manager, explains. “People in the More Than Money program are helping us accomplish our mission which is to foster a healthy community.”
We know that Dr. Tom Hayhurst, who co-founded the Matthew 25 Health & Dental Clinic’s free pulmonary clinic each week he works at the Allen County Tuberculosis Clinic is well aware of these and other programs being designed to help the needy meet their healthcare needs without going bankrupt.
How refreshing it would be if the 3rd District was represented in Congress by someone like Dr. Hayhurst’s with his ability to understand the healthcare system and help craft reform rather than just stand like a wall against healthier communities.
What Congress needs now, and for the next several years as this legislation continues to get tweaked as Medicare did for more nearly a decade, is a surgical approach rather than a dull bludgeon like Mark Souder.
You can listen to the NPR story here.