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Health Care Available for Uninsured

There are about 70,000 to 80,000 uninsured residents in Fairfax County, and the three county-run Community Health Care Network clinics — Bailey's Health Center in Falls Church, North County Health Center in Reston and South County Health Center in Mount Vernon — are overwhelmed taking care of the 21,000 active eligible patients that make up its membership.

"We have no universal health care in this country," said Chris Stevens, program director for the Community Health Care Network. "As the economy has gotten worse, people have less money for health insurance, and we've become overwhelmed."

So much so that there is a waiting list of 1,600 names to become a member at the Bailey's clinic alone.

So the Community Health Care Network has turned to another network, one made up of other agencies and programs in an effort to help the county's working poor.

"I HAVE A CLIENT who makes $1,300 per month, and his family-plan insurance costs more than $900 per month," said Alena Carroll, a case manager for Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS). "And for a family of five, that's not feasible. They just can't live on $300 per month."

So through a partnership with the Fairfax County Office of Partnerships, Carroll can link up the family with physicians that provide medical care at reduced prices or in the case of children, free.

The Office of Partnerships oversees the pubic/private programs: Medical Care for Children Partnership (MCCP), which provides free care to children from birth until age 18; and the Adult Health and Dental Partnership, which provides care to adults at a reduced cost. The remainder is paid by the partnership. The NVFS screens the families for eligibility, arranges the doctor’s appointments and helps with other things such as transportation and translation services.

The Office of Partnerships seeks out the 500 private-practice and Kaiser Permanente physicians, specialists, dentists and labs willing to provide their services and works with the business community to raise the funds needed to keep the programs going. The county pays for the administration costs associated with the program.

"These are families that make too much to be eligible for Medicaid and FAMIS [Family Access to Medical Insurance], but not enough to afford their own health insurance," said Sandra Stiner Lowe, director of the Office of Partnerships. "Between the county Health Department [which oversees the Community Health Care Network clinics] and our office, we work as a team. The difference between us and the county is we're using physicians in private practice in their own offices."

BEFORE SEEKING OUT the services of any of these offices, Stevens said it is important for families to first see if they qualify for either Medicaid or FAMIS.

Adults and children who are not eligible or are waiting for approval can find help though the partnership, if they meet the income-eligibility requirements. Members must also provide an income update every six to 12 months to verify their eligibility in the programs.

"The income eligibility is 250 percent of the poverty level," said Rhonda Thissen, health programs supervisor for NVFS. "So for example, for a family of four, that's $45,250 per year. For a single adult, that's $22,150."

Members of either MCCP or the Adult Health and Dental Partnership are assigned a medical home, which is similar to a primary-care physician, for preventive and immediate care.

"We get referrals from all over the county," Carroll said. "We usually see people when they need a doctor. For example, right now is our busy season because the children need physicals for school."

Stiner Lowe said the MCCP alone served more than 7,000 children in the past year and 61,000 since its creation in 1986. The service costs the partnership roughly $318.50 per child per year.