Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

September 10, 2012

Health centers benefit under new law

TAHLEQUAH — A generation or two ago, when people got sick, they sought treatment from a family doctor, or for more serious injuries, the emergency room at the local hospital.

Today, a growing number of Americans seek care from community health centers or smaller emergent care facilities. Tahlequah residents have access to both: NEOHealth centers offers care at reduced rates based on income, and  UrgentCare takes walk-in patients at charges comparable to those of primary care physicians.

For people with insurance through a major carrier like Blue Cross and Blue Shield, treatment at a clinic like Urgent Care is more cost-effective than going to a hospital emergencyroom.

An average copayment for an Urgent Care visit runs about $40, compared to a $200 copayment at the Tahlequah City Hospital emergency room.

Affordability is a key element for many people. And under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, clinics like NEOHealth and Urgent Care may experience rapid patient base growth, as the law provides for massive expansion to Medicare, Medicaid and preventive services.

NEOHealth was originally incorporated in 2001, and saw its first patient in April 2002. The center received its first grant funding in November 2002. The health centers – operating in Hulbert, Tahlequah, Westville and Muskogee – offer uninsured patients a sliding-scale fee, based on household size and income.

“Our lowest fee is $30,” said NEOHealth CEO Angel Westbrook. “NEOHealth operates three of its clinical sites – Hulbert, Westville and Muskogee – with grants from U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration’s federally-qualified health centers program, as well as billing insurance companies for services provided, and patient collections. NEOHealth’s Tahlequah clinical sites – Tahlequah Health Center and OB/GYN and associates – are not grant-funded but are revenue-generated clinics through billing insurance companies and patient collections. NEOHealth also operates a pharmacy in Hulbert, which is also revenue-generated and not grant-funded.”

John Kasprak, senior attorney for the Connecticut Office of Legislative Research, said PPACA includes several provisions that affect community health centers, including increased funding for health centers, insurance expansion, Medicare payment reform and workforce and training initiatives.

“Beginning in federal fiscal year 2011, the federal health care reform law [included] a total of $11 billion in new funding for health centers over a five-year period,” Kasprak wrote in a 2010 report. “Of this total, $9.5 billion will allow health centers to expand their total operational capacity to serve a significant number of new patients and to improve their medical, oral and behavioral health services. The remaining $1.5 billion will allow health centers to begin to meet their capital needs, by expanding and improving existing facilities, constructing new sites and upgrading health information technology systems.”

Westbrook said NEOHealth has directly benefited from PPACA, in the form of additional funding.

“We have been funded through PPACA to open a clinic in Muskogee, which is expected to be operational in October,” said Westbrook. “NEOHealth and other federally qualified health care centers in Oklahoma are closely watching the political policies. We will continue to seek out any additional funding opportunities that will benefit the communities in which NEOHealth provides services. We will make adjustments as necessary, and continue to provide the most quality affordable health care possible within our communities.”

To prepare for upcoming changes in training, billing and expansion, Westbrook said, NEOHealth works with the Oklahoma Primary Care Association, and believes they have an excellent resource in OKPCA Director of Public Policy Brent Wilborn.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld PPACA as constitutional in August, but Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, have vowed to repeal the law if they’re elected. The Oklahoma Legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin have adopted a “wait-and-see” attitude, and have declined to set up PPACA-required insurance exchanges until after the November elections.

“[The only drawbacks to PPACA we anticipate] is the uncertainty of its future,” said Westbrook. “[Overall] NEOHealth believes that all people should be able to have access to quality affordable health care, which has been NEOHealth’s mission for years.”

Unlike NEOHealth, Urgent Care is privately and locally owned, operating without any state or federal funds.

Urgent Care was established in Tahlequah in 2004, and expanded to Wagoner in 2008, to provide an option for patients who need medical treatment on short notice. Services are available to anyone, including those away from home or those unable to get a timely appointment with a primary care provider.

Dr. Tracey Childers, owner of Urgent Care, said continuity of care is key.

“We do our best to work with primary care providers for continuity of patient care,” said Childers. “Referrals to specialists are made when needed. Common services we provide include laceration repair, evaluation and treatment of minor injuries and illnesses. We perform sports, school and Department of Transportation physicals, and manage workers compensation cases for a large number of local employers.”

Under PPACA, about 200,000 Oklahomans who did not previously have health insurance will gain access through Medicare or Medicaid. Childers said Urgent Care has adopted innovative technology to help accommodate some of that growth.

“At Childers Medical Group [the umbrella company for Urgent Care and several other clinics], we strive to provide unparalleled quality health care services to the communities we serve,” said Childers. “One example of this commitment is our conversion to electronic medical records 10 years ago, ensuring quality patient care. This same passion exists in our eagerness to expand our staff and services as needed.”

Childers said while her personal commitment as a physician is to provide the same level of care for her patients as she would expect for her own family, she’s concerned about the sudden and exponential expansion of patients, with respect to the overall number of practicing health care providers.

“This will eventually affect the time a patient may have to wait to schedule an appointment or a doctor’s visit; only time will tell,” said Childers. “My prayer is that the medical community can meet and keep up with this demand of generating more health care providers.”

Childers said that for many years, the number of residency positions nationwide, particularly in the specialty fields, has continued to decrease.

“Changes are being made now to expand these residencies for specialization; however, several years may pass before these transitional benefits are realized,” said Childers. “For example, to become a family physician or an internal medicine physician, one must complete four years of college, four years of medical school and three years of residency, equaling 11 years to generate a [practicing physician].”

Text Only
Local News
  • ts-Trail-show-1.jpg Jackson takes prize

    Cherokee Heritage Center Museum Curator Mickel Yantz kicked off his 10th anniversary at the venue with the opening of the 43rd annual Trail of Tears Art Show this past Friday.
    “The Trail of Tears show was my first exhibit opening when I arrived 10 years ago,” said Yantz. “Since that time, the show has changed so dramatically; we’ve added so many new artists, and the art work has excelled over time. It’s like Christmas for me.”
    Yantz said he was exceptionally pleased with the opening reception.
    “We had a fantastic turnout,” said Yantz. “We had a lot of fun and sold some artwork, which is great for opening night.”
    The exhibit is on display at the Cherokee Heritage Center through May 26. This year’s show features 130 pieces of art spanning eight different categories, including basketry, graphics, jewelry, miniature, painting, pottery and sculpture.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • churchguy.jpg Some NSU students find Church of Monett offensive

    They turn heads every time they show up on campus, and some students at Northeastern State University are offended by their presence.
    The Church of Monett, Mo., has made periodic trips to Tahlequah to stage quiet demonstrations in public campus spaces in recent years. They carry signs that read, “Wives, Obey your Husbands,”; “To be Married to the divorced is Adultery”; and “Don’t be deceived: fornicators homosexuals idolaters adulterers thieves drunkards - shall not inherit God’s Kingdom.”

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Teen sent to hospital after being struck by tractor-trailer

    An 18-year-old Tahlequah man was struck by a tractor-trailer early Tuesday morning on the State Highway 51 bypass near Mimosa Lane.
    Tahlequah Police Capt. Tom Jones said officers responded to the scene at about 5:40 a.m., when Sage Sohns was found injured and lying in the road. A medical helicopter responded to the scene to transport Sohns to a Tulsa hospital, where he was being treated for a closed-head injury, police said.

    April 16, 2014

  • TPS board hears architect presentations for cafeteria

    Members of the Tahlequah Public Schools Board of Education heard from four architectural firms seeking a contract for construction at Cherokee Elementary School.
    TPS plans to build a cafeteria-auditorium and a music room with a stage, which may also serve as a safe room during storms.

    April 16, 2014

  • Briggs.jpg Local man hit with assault, burglary charges

    Prosecutors have formally charged a Tahlequah man accused of breaking into a motel room, tying a rope around a man’s neck and stabbing him repeatedly with a syringe.
    Jimmy Dale Briggs Jr., 33, is charged with first-degree burglary, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and two counts of threatening to perform an act of violence.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Boy whose mom scolded deputies in trouble again

    Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies arrested a 15-year-old theft suspect Monday night after he allegedly assaulted his brother.
    Deputy Kim Novak said authorities were dispatched to a home and ultimately took the teen into custody. While there, they also discovered items that had been reported stolen, including a bed and several tools.
    Novak said the teen is the same boy who has previously been found to be in possession of stolen items.

    April 16, 2014

  • plane-crash-1-a.jpg Plane crash victims recovering

    Two Arkansas men remained in a Tulsa hospital Monday after the plane they were flying crashed into a wooded area in Cookson.
    According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the 1946 Ercoupe 415 crashed under “unknown circumstances” about a mile from the Tenkiller Air Park in Cookson Saturday morning.
    The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says 75-year-old John McCreary and 85-year-old Albert Demarco Jr., both of Ozark, Ark., were flown from Cookson to St. John Medical Center in Tulsa.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • walker-terrance.jpg Man taken for blood sample confuses hospital with hotel

    Tahlequah police say an Austin, Texas, man stopped Saturday mistook a local hospital for a hotel when he was taken to have his blood drawn.
    Officer Cory Keele’s affidavit says 20-year-old Terrance Walker was driving south on Muskogee Avenue at about 2 a.m. Saturday, swerving from one line to another.
    Keele tried to stop the car near Muskogee and Chickasaw, and Walker eventually slowed to a stop near South Street.
    Walker opened the car door as Keele approached. The officer said Walker had dilated pupils.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • ennis-scottie.jpg Knife-cutting incident lands man in jail

    A Tahlequah man jailed for allegedly cutting a woman with a kitchen knife was released on a recognizance bond Monday.
    Scottie Lee Ennis, 42, was arrested after Officer Austin Yates was sent to Tahlequah City Hospital late Friday night.
    There, Yates spoke with Jennifer Pennell, who had apparently suffered a stab wound to her arm.
    Pennell told Yates she and her husband, Ennis, had gone to Dewain’s Place earlier in the evening, and while at the bar, a man bought her a drink.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • hawley-jeremy.jpg Tahlequah man bonds out after arrest for assault

    A 22-year-old Tahlequah man bonded out of jail Monday after his weekend arrest on domestic assault charges.
    Jeremy Hawley was booked into jail Sunday for domestic assault and battery in the presence of a minor and interfering with a 911 call.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
Undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Stocks