Despite more people being covered under Obamacare, high deductibles often keep some from seeking treatment until they become seriously ill or injured.
However, Lorain County Health & Dentistry staff say cost shouldn’t discourage people from seeking help at their new Oberlin clinic, which opened April 5.
“We won’t turn anybody away. Everybody will be seen,” said clinical assistant and LPN Crystal Ingersoll during a Monday tour of the clinic at 260 South Main St. “It’s our mission to take care of the community.”
The approximately $3.2 million clinic, paid for with a bank loan, is the fifth facility for the nonprofit group, which has two each in Elyria and Lorain, said Stephanie Wiersma, the group’s CEO and president.
Formed in 2002, Lorain County Health & Dentistry has an approximately $8 million annual budget. It served about 12,000 patients who made some 40,000 visits last year.
The organization benefited from the 2010 passage of Obamacare — officially known as the Affordable Care Act — and the 2013 expansion of Medicaid in Ohio which was part of that legislation.
About 20 million Americans now have health insurance since Obamacare’s passage, according to a March 3 release from the the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
That includes 243,715 Ohioans who signed up in the latest enrollment period that ended Jan. 31., according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The 20 million figure includes those covered through the expansion of Medicaid in states such as Ohio as well as young people covered through a parent’s private insurance or people with pre-existing conditions who private insurance companies must now cover.
While Obamacare has helped many not have to rely on emergency rooms for routine treatment, some with high deductibles are reluctant to seek care. The IRS defines a high deductible as $1,300 or more annually for an individual and $2,600 or more for a family.
Besides those with high deductibles, many Lorain County Health & Dentistry patients are poor, but the organization provides financial assistance. It offers a sliding fee scale based on federal poverty guidelines according to family size and income.
For instance, a patient from a family of four whose annual income was $24,250 or less would pay a $20 co-pay for medical or vision treatment or $35 for dental care. Someone from a family of four earning up to $48,501 would pay $70 for medical or vision treatment or $70 for dental care.
“We will see anybody and everybody,” Wiersma said . ‘There’s no age limit or income threshold, high or low. We will see you whether you have insurance or are uninsured.”
Wiersma said Oberlin was chosen because there are many under-served, low-income people in Oberlin and Wellington. Some don’t have cars or lack reliable transportation so regularly driving to Elyria or Lorain for treatment is inconvenient.
Services at the 6,800-square-foot clinic include gynecological, pediatric care as well as podiatry and prenatal services. Eye care will begin next month. Changes in electronic dental records have delayed dental care which is expected to begin in early August.
Also offered is”integrated behavioral health” treatment, which helps addicts and people with mental illness. Through confidential questionnaires, people who need help can get it immediately, said Katie Beltz, a certified nurse practitioner.
“They don’t fall through the cracks of the system,” she said. “”Having that piece there really makes a big difference in putting together a full puzzle.”
The clinic is open Monday through Thursday with adult care on Mondays and Wednesdays, pediatrics on Tuesdays, and gynecological services on Thursdays.
The lobby was empty Monday afternoon, but Wiersma said she expects it to fill up in the next few months as people learn about the new location. A grand opening is planned for June and the clinic, which has four staffers, plans to hire 15 to 20 full-time staff and expand hours by the end of next year.
Wiersma said plans for the clinic began when she called then-city manager Eric Norenberg in the summer of 2014.
Wiersma said she is grateful to city officials for quickly selling the city-owned land to her group to build the clinic. “Oberlin has been a very welcoming community and we appreciate it,” she said.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter