PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE: Still a need for charity medical clinics

Greg Lang

Greg Lang

By Greg Lang

In Hollywood, during the pitch stage in the life of a movie, the plot must be reduced to a sentence or two, something called a logline. If the story of the Good Samaritan were reduced to a logline, it might read “Two indifferent people walk past an injured man before a third kneels down to help. His act of compassion begins a worldwide movement of people caring for their fellow man, even complete strangers.”

I am inspired by the story of the Good Samaritan, yet I take note of something rarely pointed out – the good guys are outnumbered by the indifferent ones, 2:1. If the parable were taken literally, only one in three of us care enough about others to become involved in their pain and suffering. This worries me, particularly in light of current events in the healthcare marketplace.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “Doesn’t ObamaCare make charity medical clinics no longer necessary?” If the majority of us lean toward indifference to begin with, how much more indifferent will we become if we also think ObamaCare has dealt with the plight of the uninsured?

ObamaCare does not extinguish the need for charity medical clinics. Consider some data that are not in dispute anywhere in the local discussion on the pros and cons of ObamaCare:

  1. In Gwinnett County, 26.5 percent of the working population is uninsured. That’s nearly 107,000 people.

  2. More than 409,000 Georgians are in the Coverage Gap, that space where they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to obtain a subsidy to help pay for health insurance. Of those, 327,000 live in the metro Atlanta area, including Gwinnett.

  3. Even if more individuals were eligible for Medicaid, healthcare access would remain a problem. According to the Medical Association of Georgia, 40 percent of physicians are declining new Medicaid patients because of poor reimbursement.

  4. ObamaCare provides no benefits for undocumented residents. Seventy-five percent of all undocumented residents live within 10 states, one of which is GA.

  5. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States faces a shortage of primary care doctors; Georgia will rank last in the United States in physicians per capita by 2020.

Considering all of the above, we do not expect a decrease in demand for charity medical care to result from ObamaCare; rather, we predict an increase in demand. Our patients will be low wage earners and part-time employees who cannot afford to buy health insurance, those in the “coverage gap”, insured individuals who have not met their deductible and cannot afford out-of-pocket fees, those commuting from remote areas where charitable primary care is not available, and undocumented residents.

Gwinnett is home to four charity medical clinics: the Good Samaritan Health Center, Hope Clinic, Gwinnett Community Clinic, and Hebron Health Clinic. The work before each of us is daunting, expensive, and increasing. We do indeed remain necessary, will for years to come, and we need your help to do what we do - become involved with the pain and suffering of the uninsured. Please help us help others by making a contribution to the clinic nearest you.

Two out of three people who read this article will be indifferent; only one will care. Which person are you?

Greg Lang is executive director of Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett.

People Helping People is a publication of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health & Human Services.

For more information contact Ellen Gerstein - ellen@gwinnettcoalition.org or at 770-995-3339.