Why the Need for a Clinic
Without free and charitable clinics, low-income and uninsured individuals must make impossible choices about their own health versus their family’s well-being. Even with the passing of the Affordable Health Care Act, approximately 694,000 Kentuckians and remain uninsured and without access to affordable healthcare. Another 179,423 individuals in Southern Indiana live without insurance and affordable access.
Access to affordable healthcare is an economic issue as much as it is a public health concern. Current studies show that more than 50% of all bankruptcies are due to medical debt (NerdWallet Health Study, 2013). It is the leading cause of bankruptcy among Americans under the age of sixty-five. The Have A Heart Foundation’s Board of Directors and supporters believe all people should have access to healthcare, particularly cardiovascular services, independent of their financial situation. Nationally there are still greater than 29 million uninsured and greater than 9% in Kentucky. Many of these are in urban settings such as Louisville’s West End. These individuals exist in the “coverage gap”: the majority remain uninsured because they do not qualify for Medicaid and do not earn enough to afford care. In fact, there are parts of Louisville where up to 40% of the residents work but live in poverty. Cardiovascular disease accounts for the majority of visits to free medical clinics. An Americares Study of free clinics found that 40 percent of all visits are related to cardiovascular disease: 51 percent of individuals have high blood pressure, 44 percent have high cholesterol, and 44 percent have some other cardiovascular problem. The study also cited the number of cardiovascular medications prescribed ranked second only to diabetic medications.
Members of our community living west of I-65 have a life expectancy of greater than 10 years less than those living east of I-65. Residents of Saint Matthews have a life expectancy of 83 years of age while those in the Parkland and Portland neighborhoods average about 65 years of age, less than that of people living in Iraq (Louisville Metro Health Equity Report 2014). Death by stroke and heart disease is 2.5 to 3 times higher in those areas. Higher levels of socioeconomic stress, food deserts, and countless other social and economic factors in that area, contribute to shorter and less healthy lives. Louisville is fortunate to have many primary care clinics to help the underserved, such as Park Duvalle, Family Health Centers, Family Community Clinic and the Shawnee Family Clinic. Despite the availability of free clinics, which are often overrun with patients requiring general health attention, Louisville does not have a specialty clinic specifically to serve the cardiovascular needs of the underserved. Louisville’s primary clinics must reach out to various specialty clinics to find practitioners willing to see indigent patients. They have no direct cardiovascular clinic where they can send their patients. The Have A Heart Foundation and Clinic in a stand-alone setting would lead the effort in eliminating unnecessary illness and death as a result of preventable cardiovascular events among the uninsured and low-income families in our community by providing quicker access and novel ways of caring for those patients.