Kaiser Permanente: Leading Health Care Systems Partner to Increase Access

New initiative supports community clinics that care for uninsured, underinsured, and low-income residents.

Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Legacy Health, PeaceHealth and Providence Health & Services have partnered to create the Health Systems Access to Care Fund for community-supported clinics in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

While the Affordable Care Act helped provide more access to insurance, it didn’t alleviate the need for community-supported or free clinics. The $1.2 million, multiyear fund is held by the Oregon Community Foundation. By providing both funding and technical assistance, these investments will strengthen the clinics’ capacity and infrastructure as they adapt to the evolving needs of their patients. Factors such as ongoing health care reform, Medicaid transformation and increasing pressure on the health care safety net all have an impact on the clinics.

Community-supported clinics provide a variety of primary care services, often through volunteer physicians and nurses working at evening clinics to serve low-income, uninsured people. While each clinic is unique, they all have one thing in common — they exist because of the support they get from the local community.

“The most typical patient profile for our clinic is a low-wage worker with no health insurance, often working two or more jobs to support their families,” said Martha Spiers, LCSW, executive director of Clackamas Volunteers in Medicine. “They defer their own care in order to maintain housing and other essentials for their families and are often just one medical bill away from homelessness, and months away from disability or the need for emergency room care.”

Spiers adds that “Like our patients, CVIM is often unsure of how we will pay the bills from month to month. This initiative is providing us with critical technical and financial support to create a business plan and ongoing stability for our organization, so we can focus on the needs of our patients.”

The clinics below will be the first to receive grants from the fund; they’ll each receive a $100,000 grant over a two-year period:

  • Battle Ground Health Care in Battle Ground, Washington, will develop a sustainable business plan that allows for increased access to health care for uninsured and underinsured people in Clark and Cowlitz counties.
  • Borland Free Clinic in Tualatin, Oregon, will hire a part-time clinic manager and a bilingual lifestyle coach to support the medical director and increase the number of medical clinics and bilingual education opportunities provided to low-income people in Clackamas and Washington counties.
  • Clackamas Volunteers in Medicine in Oregon City, Oregon, will hire a development director to cultivate support to implement and maintain clinic operations and no-cost patient services in Clackamas County.
  • Free Clinic of Southwest Washington in Vancouver, Washington, will improve its volunteer program and expand its volunteer base, increase awareness to broaden its funding base, and implement a needs assessment of focus populations in Clark County.
  • North by Northeast Community Health Center in Portland, Oregon, aims to grow its patient population by 30%, expand Medicaid contracts and secure funding commitments from key partners.
  • Portland Adventist Community Services in Portland, Oregon, will use the grant to build capacity for business planning, market analysis and partnership outreach and expand the impact of the newly renovated dental clinic for adults living on low or moderate incomes in Multnomah County.
  • Salem Free Clinics in Salem, Oregon, will increase awareness of the clinic’s services to low-income populations in Marion and Polk counties, expand strategic partnerships, and improve the clinic’s newly established Patient Navigation Services.
  • Volunteers in Medicine Clinic in Springfield, Oregon, will use the grant to support delivery of primary and behavioral health services to low-income, uninsured or underinsured Lane County adults with a specific focus on increasing oversight of diabetic patients, instituting a vision services program, outreaching to the Latino community, and improving intra-clinic operations and communication.