Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release: October 13, 2016
Sen. Kevin Matthews (D-Tulsa) discussed the Uncompensated Care
with the Health & Human Services committee Tuesday.
Susan Savage, CEO of Morton Comprehensive Health Services, testified
about the importance of the UCF to health centers around the state.
Study finds Uncompensated Care Fund crucial for
Members of the Senate Health and Human Services met Tuesday
to hear from local healthcare organizations about the importance
of the health center uncompensated care fund (UCF) to the health
and well-being of Oklahomans. The Oklahoma Department of Health
stopped distributing payments to federally qualified health centers
(FQHCs) for health care to the uninsured following the second mid-year
revenue failure but resumed payments for services rendered in July.
Matthews, D-Tulsa, requested the study. He pointed out that
the number of under- or uninsured Oklahomans has steadily increased
the past seven years and that the UCF must be protected in order
to continue providing critical health services to citizens.
“Funding for health centers has been reduced by nearly half
since 2009 but they’ve seen a significant increase in patients,”
said Matthews. “In my Senate district, citizens have a life
expectancy ten years less than other nearby zip codes due in part
to simply not having access to quality healthcare. These organizations
play a vital role in the lives of these citizens because they not
only provide primary care but a variety of other services from legal
assistance to transportation to help improve their lives overall.
We must find a way to protect this critical funding for health centers.”
Oklahoma’s twenty FQHC’s provide primary, dental and
mental health care services at about 90 locations around the state.
They accept private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid and provide a
sliding fee scale based on family income for those who are under-
or uninsured. The centers served nearly 102,000 people in 2008 and
more than 184,000 in 2015 with over 60,000 being uninsured according
to Brent Wilborn, Director of Public Policy for the Oklahoma Primary
Care Association. The health centers receive funding from multiple
sources including state and federal appropriations, grants and private
While demand for services has increased, state appropriations to
the fund have decreased because of budget cuts from $3.9 million
in 2009 to only $2.31 million for SFY’17.
“Community health centers have long served Oklahomans with
affordable access to preventive and primary care. With help from
state uncompensated care appropriations, health centers provide
a broad array of health care services to patients and studies show
that these individuals have fewer visits and admissions and spend
significantly less for specialty and inpatient care than those who
receive care in emergency rooms or other types of health care facilities,”
The committee also heard from two of the largest FQHC’s in
the state, Variety Care in Oklahoma City and Morton Comprehensive
Health Services in Tulsa.
Lou Carmichael, is the CEO of Variety Care, the state’s largest
health center with 16 sites statewide. She explained that when they
stopped receiving distributions from the UCF earlier this year,
they were forced to cut hours, which led to more emergency room
“When funding for health centers is reduced or cut, it negatively
impacts not only those who depend on those services but taxpayers
as well. Patients are forced to go to emergency rooms for medical
help, which are up to seven times more expensive than receiving
care at a health center and it’s typically at the expense
of taxpayers,” said Carmichael.
She noted that at Variety Care it costs around $615 to treat a patient
for one year, which is the same price as, or less than, one trip
to the ER.
Carmichael said another problem for health centers is the number
of uninsured patients is exceeding their federal funding. Variety
Care saw 17,500 uninsured Oklahomans in 2015.
“Health centers are designed to have multiple sources of funding
to make them viable and stable but if one portion falls out, like
federal funding or the Uncompensated Care Fund, then it causes the
whole system to fall apart and both patients and taxpayers will
suffer the consequences,” said Carmichael.
Susan Savage is the CEO of Morton Comprehensive Health Services,
which has six sites in northeastern Oklahoma. The organization's
percentage of uninsured patients is among the highest in the state
at roughly 50 percent. Savage emphasized that health centers provide
more than health care for local communities.
"Health centers represent the best of community investment.
In addition to providing primary care for all ages, health centers
work with community partners to address social determinants which
add stress to daily living and contribute to poor health,"
said Savage. "Improving the health of a community is an economic
issue, workforce issue and a community livability issue. When we
improve our citizens' health, we improve the community."
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