(Host) Seven clinics in Vermont have now qualified for federal support to expand health care services to those who need them.
Community Health Services of Lamoille Valley is the most recent clinic to win the federal designation.
As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, some hope the clinics are setting the stage for a broader reform of American health care.
(Sneyd) Designation as a “federally qualified health center” carries two primary benefits.
It gives clinic federal insurance so that it doesn’t have to buy commercial malpractice insurance.
The designation also brings in federal money to pay doctors, dentists, pharmacists and social workers.
That means more people get more care. Kevin Kelly is the executive director in Lamoille County.
(Kelley) “What this means to all the community in Lamoille County is that we’re going to be able to expand our services – and add dentistry, bring a low-discount drug program in … and add other services that are necessary in Lamoille County.”
(Sneyd) A federally qualified health center is designed to be comprehensive – from pediatrics to mental health.
Kelley says anyone, regardless of income, can be a patient.
(Kelley) “We see patients … that are uninsured to patients that might have a second home in the area. So we try not to turn away anyone who comes to our services.”
(Sneyd) An annual infusion of $650,000 from Washington will help pay the bill for those who can’t afford it themselves.
Senator Bernie Sanders has championed a statewide network of federally funded health centers.
(Sanders) “This is actually a very exciting day. We do a lot of talking in this state and in this country about health care in general terms. But today we have I think a very specific accomplishment that I think is going to make a whole lot of people happy and provide a whole lot of health care to people who … need it.”
(Sneyd) Sanders is among the people who believe the United States needs a national health care system.
That would guarantee everyone has access to a doctor or a dentist. But before that can happen, the resources have to be available. Federally qualified health centers have become the infrastructure that will support universal access.
(Volansky) “We all look forward to the time when we have a real national health care system. And in the meantime it’s just nice to be able to offer more.”
(Sneyd) Doctor Melissa Volansky practices at the Morrisville clinic.
(Volansky) “I think it helps us to open our doors to more people and hopefully people won’t be fearful of coming to access care for fear that they are going to be short on groceries or lose their homes.”
(Sneyd) Senator Sanders nods his head in agreement as he listens to Doctor Volansky.
Sanders’ ultimate goal is universal access. In the meantime, he’ll advocate for more doctors, nurses and clinics. His staff is working with clinics in Windsor, Addison and Bennington counties to win federal qualification.
For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.