The second in a series of two by Cliff Lewis
NewsLanc recently interviewed Daniel Jurman, Director of Development for SouthEast Lancaster Health Services (SELHS, a.k.a. SouthEast clinic) in Lancaster City. Jurman, whose work focuses on promoting and raising funds for SELHS, had a lot to say about the state of medical under-service in Lancaster County and how his organization has been working to fill the existing void. As Jurman explained the current role and aspirations of SELHS, it became clear that this system will likely expand to a greater prominence in the years ahead.
Ultimately, the SELHS does not provide free healthcare. The organization’s annual budget consists primarily of money collected through standard service fees. What really makes the clinic a vital asset to the community is that SELHS will accept payment through medical assistance (MA)—a currency that many doctors would not readily accept. As the need for MA increases in Lancaster County, so does the need for services provided by SELHS. There are currently over 35,000 Lancastrians on MA.
The clinic’s ever-growing emergency dental clinic illustrates role of SELHS. Besides one private dental practice, SELHS is the only place where people on MA can receive dental care in Lancaster County. According to Jurman, the SELHS dental clinic—which operates on Tuesday and Thursday mornings—is never below capacity. So, even through public funding is available for dental care, the providers of this care are few and far between.
Jurman explained how this shortage of care comes about: “If you’re a private practice dentist, and you say, ‘I’m going to see new medical assistance patients.’ What tends to happen is you get overrun as soon as you make that announcement with patients who have been desperate for care, in some cases, for years.”
Furthermore, Jurman explained how such reluctance can be understandable: “From a price standpoint, imagine if we walked [into a restaurant] for lunch today and [the cashier] rang us up and told us what the bill was, and we said, ‘That’s awesome, but we’re only going to pay a third of that, and you’re going to have to fill out this paperwork before you get our money.’ She would tell us where we could go.”
Even if universal health insurance was instituted from a Federal level, this shortage of providers would continue to impede the provision of public health care: “Lets say, for instance,…that the Federal government decides to give everyone health insurance: We’re still faced with the same issues that we have with medical assistance. Who’s going to see these people? If they suddenly have a health insurance card, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to have access to care.”
Jurman thinks that, as health insurance reform progresses in Washington, Community Health Centers like SEHLS may hold the secret to dodging the current provider shortage: “Our local representatives…have all seen that Community Health Centers are already set up-in terms of infrastructure-to do that. And we tend to do it at about 40% less than it costs other provides to provide the same care.”
The considerable amount of stimulus money ($2 billion) for Community Health Centers is, in Jurman’s mind, a likely sign of things to come: “My gut is that that’s because the administration sees that, if we’re going to have that many more people in the system who are going to need primary health and preventative care, we’re going to need to beef up the infrastructure of our community health centers to be prepared to see those additional people.”
“It feels to me as if the government is trying to prepare us for a whole new wave of patients,” Jurman said.
To find out more about SouthEast Lancaster Health Services, click here.