CEO Update: Protecting Our Safety Net
August is typically one of the hottest months of the year here in Colorado and 2020 is no exception with 65 days over 90 degrees and no rain in sight. Our thoughts go out to all of the communities in Colorado, California and elsewhere that are dealing with wildfires and thank you to the fire fighters working tirelessly to protect our communities.
August is also the month that CRHC celebrates Safety Net Clinic Week, a week dedicated to raising awareness of rural health clinics and the communities they serve. Our safety net providers are under more stress than ever, which is why it’s so important this year to recognize their incredible impact across our state. This year we hosted our first ever Virtual Event through Facebook Live; it was exciting to be able to reach a wider audience than our in person events permit.
This year was our 11th Annual Safety Net Clinic Week highlighting the unique challenges facing federally certified Rural Health Clinics, rural primary care clinics, and Community Safety Net Clinics. In Colorado, we have 52 federally certified Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) that provide over one million visits a year to approximately 344,000 rural and underserved Coloradans. RHCs are diverse and may be owned and operated by the local town, rural hospital, or by an individual provider. The clinics primarily serve Coloradans who are uninsured, underinsured, or publically insured and RHCs are paid a per-visit encounter rate of $110.36 per Medicaid patient and $83.45 per Medicare patient. Often, this funding does not cover the cost of operations, which means that RHCs are dependent on other funding, including grants, donations, and staffing models that include volunteers. It’s also important to note that RHCs do not receive any state or federal grant funding and with unstable funding streams, our safety net clinics that serve our state’s most vulnerable individuals are at financial risk. When our safety net is at financial risk, that means access to care is at risk.
This year’s video series features the Saguache Health Center, which is part of the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center. The Saguache Health Center is a brand new RHC and they were heavily impacted by COVID-19, as was the community they serve. I hope you are able to take a few minutes to learn more about Safety Net Clinics and explore some of the silver linings that emerged from COVID-19 including an increase in access to care through telehealth and learn about the opportunities that still exist to ensure we have access to care in all rural communities.
Be sure to watch the new videos on our YouTube page!