The Affordable Care Act expanded access to health coverage for millions of Americans, and yet more than 30 million people living in the United States remain uninsured, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the coming months, Kaiser Permanente will award $ 19.3 million in grants to community-based organizations. Many of the grants will help uninsured and underinsured people secure access to health care and coverage.
“These grants are important because we know that people who lack health insurance often go without needed medical care,” said Cynthia Telles, PhD, Community Health Committee chair for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals Boards of Directors. “As a nonprofit with a mission to improve community health, an essential part of our strategy is ensuring that people in need get access to care.”
One grant will fund the nonprofit Operation Access, which coordinates surgeries and medical procedures for uninsured people through its network of volunteers and participating hospitals. In addition to the grant, last year 669 Kaiser Permanente volunteer physicians and staff provided more than 600 surgical and specialty care services through the program at 11 Kaiser Permanente Northern California sites.
Silvia Medina of Santa Rosa, California, received a free eye surgery at Kaiser Permanente Oakland last year. The 37-year-old was uninsured and had strabismus, sometimes known as cross-eyes, which kept her from finding work.
“When I applied for jobs before the surgery, they would question my ability to work with my condition,” Medina said. Now she’s working at a dementia care facility and helping her family make ends meet. “The surgery changed my life, and I am so grateful.”
Focusing on those most in need
A sampling of the Kaiser Permanente grants to increase access includes funding for:
- Operation Access, which will coordinate at least 1,500 free specialty care surgeries and procedures for low-income, uninsured patients in 9 Bay Area counties.
- Community Clinic Consortium of Contra Costa and Solano Counties, which will support a program providing a primary care medical home for up to 5,500 low-income, uninsured residents.
- Los Angeles Christian Health Centers, which will build a comprehensive health center to serve the medical and social health needs of 6,000 homeless and formerly homeless people living in LA’s Skid Row.
- Community Health Association of Spokane, which will operate a school-based health center for more than 1,500 students, plus staff, parents, and siblings after school hours at John R. Rogers High School in Spokane, Washington, where 77% of students live in poverty.
“We’re pleased to award these grants because we recognize that in order to improve the health of an entire community, we must focus first on those most in need,” said Bechara Choucair, MD, chief community health officer.
Quarterly grants such as these are part of the contributions that Kaiser Permanente makes each year to improve community health. Kaiser Permanente also serves the community through a range of programs including Medicaid, charitable health coverage, medical financial assistance, and medical research. In 2018, Kaiser Permanente dedicated nearly $ 2.8 billion to improve health and wellness in communities across the country.