June 2011 Health Insurance

The Doctor Is In

Gail Hacker MD
Gail Hacker, MD

June 2011

If I don't have health insurance, I can't get healthcare, right?

photo of student asking, If I don't have health insurance, I can't get healthcare, right?

health clinic graphic icon of stethoscope

Not exactly.  Health insurance is a relatively new thing in America. Before World War II most people had what was then called Sickness or Injury Insurance. Because most health care was delivered in the home the main cost of illness or injury was loss of wages. Medicine was not very advanced and health care costs were low. Folks generally paid out of pocket for health care. As an incentive to workers, employers were allowed to offer "insurance" to workers during the time when wages were frozen in the 1940s. They offered pretty basic coverage, but did serve as a safety net in case of severe illness or hospitalization. Health insurance has become much more common over the last 50 years but it is still not universal.

student asking questionSince WWII, health care costs have skyrocketed for many reasons. Technology has advanced at an incredible rate, pharmaceutical costs have increased exponentially as newer drugs are discovered and marketed, doctors incomes have increased, and patients are demanding more of the system as well. Private insurance companies have flourished. Their CEOs continue to make salaries well in excess of $1 million per year. They continue to be business entities that perform quite well for their investors. And Americans continue to consume health care at a rate that astounds other countries. While I don't argue that our system needs some major fixing, it won't come real soon, and people still need to see the doctor.  So what is a person to do in the meantime?

Those of you who have chosen to attend LCC have made a step in the right direction. LCC is the only community college in the state of Oregon that provides access to a health clinic. The LCC Health Clinic is staffed by 2 doctors, 3 nurse practitioners, and 1 registered nurse. Our clinical support staff includes 2 medical office assistants, 3 schedulers, 1 lab tech, and a number of student workers, medical transcription and administrative staff.

For $12 per term, most students enrolled in credit classes have access to the health clinic for little or no cost. Most routine office visits are covered completely by that $12 fee. Other services, such as program physicals ($30-$40), blood tests ($5-$50 in general, with no drawing fee charged), minor surgical procedures ($40-$200), and medications ($4-$30), cost much less than they would in the local medical community. Our prices are purposefully kept low because we realize how closely linked your health is to your academic success and we know that more than 60% of our patients lack health insurance and, similar to the pre-WWII days, are paying for health care out of pocket.

Even though our prices are very low, we often hear from patients that they cannot afford a recommended procedure, lab test, or medication "because I don't have insurance."

We never want a student to go without necessary health services because of true financial need and will help you access a number of programs for financial assistance. This may include helping you submit the necessary paperwork to apply for assistance from a pharmaceutical company to help cover the cost of your medications or immunizations; helping you sign up for CCare, which is a state run program aimed at decreasing the frequency of unplanned pregnancy; or referring you to another provider who can sign you up for indicated mammography, to name a few resources available to you.

We also might ask you to take a long, hard look at your financial priorities. As stated above, the cost of procedures and office visits at the Health Clinic is substantially lower than at other facilities in the area. While not having insurance is difficult, it does not mean you cannot get health care. It may mean that you need to put away some money in a health care account that you can use if the need arises. 

While we all would agree that there exist basic human needs - food, housing, and health care, to mention a few- cable TV, body adornment, and a new cell phone every 2 years would be considered luxuries in most minds. While health care reform is sorely needed in this country, it will not happen overnight. So, before you sign up for that next tat, you might want to consider putting a few extra dollars aside for your health.

woman in sunshineWe will work with you to help you get necessary care and treatment.

Give us a call.

Supporting you in good health,
Gail Hacker, MD