People across the region depend on the Kodiak Community Health Center for basic services. Even those who usually can’t afford go see a doctor have gotten discounts for years. The center’s now applying for a grant that will keep that practice going. But there are some other changes coming that might strain the clinic’s resources.
The Kodiak Community Health Center is the type of place where you can go for a routine check-up, to see a doctor for a bad cold, or to get treatment for a chronic illness. For years, the health center’s offered financial aid to vulnerable patients — thanks to the federal grant 330. It’s now applying for yet another round with this grant.
The $1.5 million a year provided, supports the center’s sliding discount scale for patients who’re at, or below, 200% of the federal poverty guideline. Jessica Cotton is the Kodiak Community Health Center’s executive director, She says this discount allows many patients in the region to receive medical services they normally couldn’t afford.
“So if you’re below 200 percent of federal poverty, that means that you’re struggling to make ends meet. That means that you’re having troubles paying your rent, you’re having troubles paying your electric, your fuel, all those other pieces. You’re just kind of scraping by. So it’s the way of the government’s supplementing their accessibility to healthcare. ”
The discounts vary depending on patients’ income, which the center verifies.
Around 3,000 patients in the region currently get care at the clinic, and 71 percent qualify for financial aid. Cotton says if the health center didn’t offer assistance many people just wouldn’t go to the doctor.
“If you can’t afford it you’re just not doing it. And then you end up deathly ill, you end up using the E.R., you end up in the hospital, you end up with extra surgeries, you end up on the kind of extreme side of medicine versus the preventative side and the taking care of yourself side.”
Cotton is confident the center will get the three-year grant. But there is something changing soon that could take a toll on the clinic’s budget. The volume of patients it serves.
Kodiak Island Medical Associates, also known as KIMA, is another clinic that sees patients from across the region. But it’ll soon shut down. And Cotton says the Kodiak Island Community Health Center expects to pick up some of the slack. She thinks its patient load will almost double.
The 330 grant funding isn’t going to grow with the increase of patients though. Cotton says nearly a third of the region’s population is poor enough to qualify for discounts and the center is still trying to figure out how to support its future patients.
“We’ll have to watch and see with our patient base and the revenue we have with that, but my guess will be we’ll have to consider a capital campaign and some fundraising opportunities and things like that.”
Those new patients will get phased in gradually, to help the clinic prepare for the change. Cotton says she expects to find out later this year if the center is getting its grant funding.