Funding boost for St. Louis health centers

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by KMOV.com Staff

KMOV.com

Posted on October 1, 2013 at 6:46 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 1 at 8:36 PM

(KMOV) – The people who walk through the doors of Grace Hill and other non-profit health centers are often the ones in limbo.

“They don't qualify for Medicaid because they're not disabled, they're not pregnant, and they’re not a child. So it’s that low income, minimum wage worker, part time worker that needs some coverage,” said Pam Walker, City Health Director.

Just under 25,000 people were put on notice, warned they may lose coverage under a federal program that helped pay for doctor visits, dental care, and prescriptions.

The goal was to keep people healthy and from tying up emergency rooms - just because they don't have medical insurance.

It was meant to serve as a stepping stone to the Affordable Care Act but this year, the Missouri legislature voted down a Medicaid expansion, tied to Obama Care.

Local health officials asked federal officials to extend the program and late last week they got word of a reprieve for one year.

"We're able to keep our community health centers in our urban core, providing over 70-thousand visits a year that would otherwise be lost - otherwise be seen in emergency rooms,” said Rob Fruend with the St. Louis Regional Health Commission.

Walker said, “Their approach to getting people coverage is the Obama Care, which includes Medicaid expansion and so we really talked them into a one year extension but I think that’s all were going to get.”

The extension of the program covers people at a lower level. So an estimated 4,000 will have to find an alternative source and health officials are sounding the alarm about next year. 

   The St. Louis-based Grace Hill Community Health Centers will receive an additional $30 million in federal money. Before the extension, the Gateway program was scheduled to expire on Dec. 31.

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