We all know that COVID-19 has hit our local economies hard. Too many of our rural neighbors are struggling to make ends meet, put food on the table, or even keep a roof over their heads.
At the worst possible time, many Coloradans in rural areas find their access to affordable health care threatened. Even prior to COVID-19, one in seven Coloradans relied on Community Health Centers (CHCs) as their health care home. Without those Centers — which depend upon Medicaid reimbursements and other federal funds to care for more than 830,000 Coloradans statewide — many residents will have nowhere to turn.
A joint federal and state program, Medicaid provides health coverage to around 1.3 million Coloradans (pre-coronavirus), including children, pregnant women, parents, older adults, and individuals with disabilities. In fact, Medicaid is the single largest source of health coverage in the U.S.
Last year, Colorado’s CHCs cared for a quarter of the state’s Medicaid enrollees and 43% of Colorado’s uninsured. As one of the state’s 20 CHCs, Mountain Family Health Centers serves 21,000 people across Garfield, Eagle, and Pitkin Counties. Over the past 18 months, Mountain Family has provided more than 95,000 medical, dental, and behavioral health visits to our patients in Colorado’s rural mountain communities. Of the people we serve, 33% are covered through Medicaid, and 37% remain uninsured.
That was before the pandemic resulted in increased unemployment, resulting in the loss of employer-sponsored health insurance coverage at a time when the virus is challenging the entire health care system.
CHCs are already seeing more uninsured patients and expect to see a rise in the number of patients eligible for Medicaid, but we can’t afford to care for them without an expansion in the federal share of Medicaid. Additionally, because our Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) funding hasn’t been renewed in a long-term manner, we are facing an increasingly uncertain future.
As Congress is debating the new COVID-19 Relief package now, we call on our Congressional leaders to ensure long-term funding for the essential Community Health Center program and to reasonably increase federal funding for Medicaid to meet the rising health and safety needs during this pandemic and throughout the recovery. Taking these actions at the federal level will ensure that Community Health Centers, like Mountain Family Health Centers, will be able to continue to provide affordable medical, dental, and behavioral health care for our communities.
For those seeking medical, dental, or behavioral health care services via telehealth or at any of our locations across Garfield, Eagle, and Pitkin Counties, please call Mountain Family at 970-945-2840 or visit us online at: www.mountainfamily.org.