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SURVEY SHOWS COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS STRETCHED TO THE LIMIT FROM COUNTRY'S ECONOMIC WOES

 SURVEY SHOWS COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS STRETCHED TO THE LIMIT
 FROM COUNTRY'S ECONOMIC WOES
 WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- The nation's network of community-based health care centers, traditional care-givers for the poor and minorities, are bursting at the seams from a rapidly increasing patient load, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Cooperative Bank (NCB).
 "This survey demonstrates the impact of the recession on American families, particularly those who cannot afford private health care," said NCB President Charles E. Snyder.
 The survey was completed to be presented at the Annual Institute of the National Association of Community Health Care Centers convening in Atlanta this week.
 NCB, headquartered in Washington, the nation's leading private source of funding and financial advice for community health care centers nationwide, conducted the survey to determine future business plans and the financial needs of its health-care provider customers. The bank has provided financing for community health care centers since 1984.
 Unemployment Root Cause
 The survey of 17 centers, serving both urban and rural populations and representing all regions of the country, showed startling increases in patient visits this year of as much as 66 percent over last year. Overall increases ranged more typically in the 15-25 percent range. Health care center directors cited unemployment and the resulting loss of health care insurance as major factors for the burgeoning demands on their facilities.
 However, even families with health insurance were found to be using the centers more frequently because of the typically high deductibles necessary before any insurance payments are made, said one director. Most "major medical plans require $500 be paid by the insured before they will cover health care costs. This means most primary care isn't going to be covered."
 All of those surveyed attributed increases to the economy and unemployment. "There's been no outbreak of health among the poor," said L. Sylvia Stock, executive director of the Memorial Family Health Center in Phoenix.
 Community Health Centers operate with a mix of revenue sources from Medicaid, Medicare, special state programs, fee for services and conventional health insurance.
 According to the survey, the typical population using the centers are:
 -- 50 percent are unemployed;
 -- 50-60 percent are uninsured;
 -- major increases are being seen among the young and the acutely ill.
 The centers, which operate on a sliding payment scale and receive federal and state subsidy, reported heavy increases in young and more acutely ill patients. The executive director of the Health Center of Tuscaloosa, Ala., said, "More and more children in need of care are falling through the safety net."
 Another center director said families strapped for cash are deferring care and coming in more acutely ill than previously was the case.
 Urban Areas Most Affected
 Urban area clearly were affected to a greater degree than rural, because of job loss. But some rural clinics registered patient increases of 5-8 percent, noteworthy for areas with fairly constant populations.
 Centers are clearly constrained by their physical limitations, and a Los Angeles clinic director reported "patients are sitting up and down the stairs. We're overwhelmed with patients."
 A Tuscaloosa clinic in the process of adding six new examining rooms to meet current patient demand admitted even with the expansion completed, they will again need more space. Many centers are simply at capacity.
 National Cooperative Bank
 National Cooperative Bank was chartered by Congress to provide financing on a nationwide basis to cooperatively structured institutions, such as community-based health centers.
 In some communities, centers are the sole providers of medical care. There are 800 community-based health centers nationwide.
 Los Angeles Center
 A health care center for women and children in the riot-torn area of Los Angeles registered the heaviest patient increases, as jobs and health-insurance disappeared with the fires. Last year the clinic handled 12,000 patient visits, but this year will see 20,000 or more, if volume continues at the current level.
 Atlanta -- More Caucasians Being Treated
 Atlanta's experience mirrored other urban areas with significant increases of 33 percent in patient visits during the past year. Executive Director of University Community Health Center Plan, Inc. Daisy L. Harris said the center had served a 99 percent African- American population, but in the last year had treated a more mixed population, with Caucasian patients increasing to 20 percent of the total. The increase in unemployed and uninsured is 18 percent. Additionally, their clinic, because of ample capacity, has been one of the few in the area that has been able to accept new patients.
 Bronx
 Only 6 percent to 7 percent of patients being treated at the Montefiore Community Health Center in the Bronx had insurance or could afford to pay for treatment. The Bronx has experienced an 11 percent increase in citizens living below the poverty line, and Center Director Jack Essex reported that 85 percent to 92 percent of the center's patients are unemployed. The Bronx has had rapid population growth -- 1.3 million more residents moved there during the decade of the '80s. His center has seen almost as many patients in the first seven months of '92 as had been treated in all of 1991.
 A federal study had shown a doctor shortage of about 250 physicians for the population base of the Bronx. The center director said, "We are trying to do an impossible job."
 -0- 9/21/92
 /NOTE: Spokesmen available for interview today: Margaret Cheap, executive director, NCB Development Corporation, 415-399-0959, or Terry Simonette, president, NCB Development Corporation, 202-336-7681/
 /CONTACT: Jane Demarines, 202-336-7651, or Louise Grant, 202-336-7652, both of the National Cooperative Bank/ CO: National Cooperative Bank ST: District of Columbia IN: HEA SU: ECO


KD -- DC009 -- 1588 09/21/92 10:50 EDT
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Sep 21, 1992
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