The new year always brings renewed optimism and a sense of great anticipation for the tantalizing possibilities that lie in front of us, just waiting to be fulfilled. When I think about what’s in store for our association and North Carolina’s free and charitable clinics in 2023, two words jump out at me:
Collaboration and partnership.
In so many ways, these will be the watchwords for the coming year, as we work together on important initiatives that will make a difference in the lives of the people we serve and the communities we call home.
My experience as a clinic director over the past two decades has shown me how each one of our member clinics is strengthened by being part of something bigger than themselves, and I’m excited about collaborating in new ways that create value for you and all North Carolinians who rely on you.
Together, we’ll make major strides in 2023 on improving access to dental care for the uninsured across the state, through a grant process that involved clinics working together to develop regional rather than clinic-specific solutions. More on that soon.
Together, we’ll continue our “Journey Toward Health Equity” as we implement the Health Equity Framework, a process designed to ensure that we walk this path as a group and learn from each other about how we can deliver not only equal but equitable care to all of our patients.
Together, we’ll implement an improved annual outcomes survey that will ease the administrative burden on everyone while continuing to collect critical data that we need to demonstrate the quality of the care we provide and our vital role in the safety net to funders, donors and other partners.
So many examples exist of clinics coming together to better serve their communities, from Vecinos and Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic combining medical and dental care in a planned Community Health Hub to five clinics in Eastern North Carolina partnering with East Carolina University to offer a new diabetes management program to patients.
Many other initiatives are in the works that will bring partnership and collaboration to a new level, all with the goal of unlocking the value of our network of more than 70 free and charitable clinics in a way that provides opportunities for expanded access to health care for our state’s most vulnerable residents.
Finally, we continue to advocate on the collective behalf of our members for new sources of funding to sustain operations and grow our impact, and we will be enlisting all of our leaders in that effort over the weeks and months to come.
I’m ready to get started on what promises to be a year of great progress.
Happy New Year!
Chief Executive Officer
Lyn Jenkins’ quest for new and sustainable sources of funding for Community Care Clinic of Dare (CCCD) has led her to the doorstep of local businesses that employ the uninsured working adults who make up the bulk of the clinic’s patient caseload.
The free and charitable clinic in Nags Head, which serves Dare County on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, has launched Employers 4 CARE, a program that gives area business owners a structured way to make affordable care available to employees with no health insurance coverage.
Two employers already have committed to the program and Lyn, executive director of CCCD, is confident others will sign up once they understand the direct business benefits of contributing to the health and well-being of the folks they rely on every day.
“It’s a win for the employer because their employees are healthier and more productive and are likely to be more loyal because they feel valued,” says Lyn. “Offering the benefit that Employers 4 CARE provides should improve employee retention and recruitment and also create goodwill in the community.”
Employers 4 CARE is the first effort by North Carolina’s free and charitable clinics to formalize employer support for the clinics that provide a medical home for working North Carolinians who don’t have health insurance.
The NCAFCC estimates 70% of people served by free and charitable clinics are working North Carolinians who are uninsured for a variety of reasons. Many are self-employed or work for small employers that are exempt from legal requirements to offer health insurance to their workers.
At CCCD, 523 or 71.4% of the clinic’s 732 active patients are employed, primarily in construction, restaurant, housekeeping and retail jobs. CCCD is focusing its employer recruiting efforts on those industries and other tourism-related businesses that employ large numbers of uninsured workers.
As part of the pitch to employers, Lyn is leveraging NCAFCC data from the Annual Outcomes Survey, including the $497 average annual cost of care per patient and the $3,700 value of services each patient receives. CCCD is asking employers to consider $497 as a baseline contribution per employee.
Says Lyn: “The first employer we went to said, ‘That’s a deal!’”
CCCD currently charges patients a sliding-scale annual enrollment fee that doesn’t come close to covering the clinic’s actual cost of care. Understanding their support is critical to sustaining the clinic is another motivating factor for employers.
“They want to know the clinic will be there tomorrow,” Lyn says.
The individual enrollment fee would be waived for patients whose employers participate in Employers 4 CARE.
Employers who sign on will receive window clings featuring the Employers 4 CARE logo so they can advertise their participation – an expression of civic responsibility that Lyn thinks will enhance employers’ standing in the community.
CCCD is getting help from community health workers who have been tasked by Dare County with finding primary care for county residents that currently have no medical home. Identifying those underserved residents also helps the clinic pinpoint additional Employers 4 CARE participants.
The clinic is also putting together a group of volunteer brand ambassadors of sorts who will be helping spread the word about the clinic’s services and supplement the outreach to employers for the Employers 4 CARE program.
The program is in its infancy, but Lyn is convinced other employers share the sentiment expressed by one restaurant owner who has already joined Employers 4 CARE and are looking for an affordable way to offer a health-care benefit to their workers.
“I want my employees to know that I care about them and their health,” says the employer. “I cannot imagine having a serious health issue without any affordable access to care.”