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Rising health care costs spur association action.

Escalating health care costs have sparked a nationwide crisis. No longer confined to the very poor, the jobless, or senior citizens, the predicament of obtaining low-cost, quality health care affects an estimated 37 million Americans now without health insurance. Even full-time workers increasingly find they lack adequate employer-sponsored health care coverage.

To help more people gain access to health care, associations today have taken on a wide variety of outreach programs. Highlighted here are a few.

Vans reach the underserved. To educate needy Americans about proper health care, two 18-wheel semitrailer trucks outfitted as mobile medical units have embarked on a 17-month nationwide tour. The huge red-white-and-blue "Care-A-Vans" dispatched by the American Osteopathic Association, Chicago, enable local osteopathic physicians to provide free health screenings to medically underserved citizens.

Care-A-Van physicians perform routine health checks, make referrals, and educate visitors about wellness and available services. When the tour ends next month in Washington, D.C., volunteers will have aided more than 65,000 citizens in remote rural towns, inner-city kitchens, and senior centers. The campaign marks the osteopathic profession's centennial anniversary. For information, call (312) 280-5893.

Minihospitals offer primary care. As sparsely populated regions see their hospitals forced to shut down--largely because of dwindling finances and fewer available doctors--efforts are under way to solve a growing rural problem. A grantfunded demonstration project administered by the Montana Hospital Research and Education Foundation, Helena, enables frontier residents to obtain short-term primary care at five medical-assistance facilities, or MAFs.

Physician assistants--under the supervision of licensed doctors--staff these scaled-down former hospitals, located with nursing homes. Patients requiring overnight care can stay up to four days, while intensely ill patients are first stabilized before they are transported to larger full-service regional hospitals as far as 85 miles away.

Because MAFs are not required to meet the full range of licensing and certification standards hospitals must, they are less expensive to operate while preserving public access to basic health services. The biggest hurdle in getting MAFs off the ground was securing medicare approval. Since rural hospitals rely heavily on medicare, it was essential that the MAFs qualify to receive medicare reimbursements. Montana's example has spurred other states to adopt similar rural hospital programs. For information, call (406) 442-8802.

Pagers ease transplant wait. Every minute is critical which transplant organs become available. Now patients waiting months for a transplant kidney or heart can go about their normal routines without fear of missing that important telephone call from the hospital.

The "LifePage" program established nationally by Telocator the Personal Communications industry Association, Washington, D.C., provides free pagers to patients awaiting vital organ transplants. The pagers enable hospital personnel to remain in contact at all times with transplant candidates. Requests for the free pagers have grown to almost 200 per week--outpacing available donors. Since 1983, more than 300 paging carriers have donated new and used pagers and "air time" to 20,000 transplant patients. For information, call (202) 467-4770.
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Title Annotation:Service Salute; health care associations
Publication:Association Management
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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