BEND, OR -- As Congress debates changes to the Affordable Care Act. local nonprofit clinics continue to serve those who otherwise wouldn't have access to care. Kat Mastrangelo is the Executive Director of Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) Clinic of the Cascades, in Bend. She says the clinic has had to adjust in the years since the Affordable Care Act took effect, and some are concerned about what the future holds.
Mastrangelo tells KBND News VIM went from serving about 2,000 patients prior to passage of the ACA and expansion of the Oregon Health Plan, to about a thousand people, now, "Because there are still people in our community, especially since the economy is improving, that are not eligible for OHP. And, a lot of those are recent immigrants. Probably about 80% of our patients are Spanish speaking, so we have really been able to rework a lot of our volunteer positions and we've engaged a lot more bilingual volunteers." She says they serve a number of recent immigrants who aren't eligible for OHP. Other patients have insurance but deductibles are so high, they can't afford to seek care at a traditional medical facility.
Mastrangelo says there is a lot of uncertainty among patients and staff, given proposed changes to federal healthcare requirements. "So, we have the patients that aren't eligible for OHP anyway, so they're still going to be here, so that's going to be stable. But then, this other group that, now the insurance market - if it was bad before, it's going to be even crazier now. This hasn't even gone into effect yet, and we're already getting calls from people who are looking for care, who are just concerned and anxious about what's going to happen." She adds, "You just can't imagine that there's not going to be a lot of stories about people who are really hurting, if they can't figure out how to navigate this or if they're blocked financially from being able to receive services. What I've read is, the biggest group that's going to impact are low-income, elderly people. And, they are just going to be in a world of hurt."