Dr. Chris Tonozzi is Mountain Family's Director of Data Quality.

By Dr. Chris Tonozzi, MD, Director of Data Quality

The growth in Mountain Family Health Centers patients has been amazing. We’ve grown by almost 10 percent, which you can see in the MFHC Patient Count graph in the photo gallery at the bottom of this blog post. This is great news for our community, and Mountain Family is ready for our new patients. We have approximately 170 employees, including medical, dental and behavioral health providers, available at eight sites.

But a concerning trend has been showing up for Mountain Family: we would have hoped that, with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other changes nationally, most of our patients would have some form of insurance to help cover the cost of their care. Unfortunately, our data tells a different story. For the 1,869 new patients that we’ve had in the last year, please see the second chart below, showing how many did not have public or private insurance. (That slide is titled 2017 MFHC Payer Distribution new patients. The term “CHP+” is Child Health Plan Plus, Colorado’s insurance plan for certain kids and pregnant moms.)

We call the number of patients with public or private insurance our “Payer Mix.” Payer mix is the proportion of different payment sources (including different insurances or no insurance) that our patients have. We had hoped that with the Affordable Care Act, more and more patients, especially new ones, would receive Medicaid insurance. But our data shows a different story. In the last year, our uninsured patients outnumbered our Medicaid patients by over four times. When our patients don’t have any insurance, we need to stretch our grant-funded health care dollars further. Also, referrals, specialists and hospitalizations become much more difficult.

Why is it that we are not seeing more new patients with insurance? We have a few theories:

  • The immigration changes in the community have caused Latino families to hesitate to share income information that is required in order to apply for insurance.
  • People are confused about whether “Obamacare” has been repealed (it has not).
  • Health insurance has generally become less affordable.

What are we doing to address this? We are reaching out to patients who have Medicaid to encourage them to be seen for their healthcare needs. We are making it easier for community members to apply for Medicaid by becoming a site where they can apply for Medicaid. We are supporting those who have immigration fears, trying to assure them that applying for public insurance will not lead to harm. We are speaking out in our community regarding the need to address the high cost of health insurance. We are setting an example of efficient, high-value health care. We’ll discuss that more in future articles.

Editor’s note: Leave your comments below if you have suggestions for how Mountain Family can increase the number of patients with Medicaid insurance.