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Growth seen for Variety Care, health care for low-income and uninsured families

More than 50,000 people received health care last year from Variety Care. Soon, three new building projects will be complete to accommodate an estimated 15,000 additional patients.
BY SONYA COLBERG Published: October 22, 2011

A group of clinics dedicated to low-income families and the uninsured is quietly lifting some of the burden from Oklahoma's strained emergency rooms and doctors.

More than 50,000 people received health care last year from Variety Care Family Health. Soon, three new building projects will accommodate more patients.

“That will allow us to expand access to about 15,000 more patients,” said Lou Carmichael, executive director.

“We'll be very happy when those are finished about midyear 2012,” she said.

Variety Care includes 13 full and part-time locations in the Oklahoma City metro. The nonprofit also operates rural health center locations in Fort Cobb, Tipton and Grandfield.

“It's not even a dent in terms of the uninsured and really the underserved,” Carmichael said.

Both uninsured and insured patients visit the health centers. Variety Care provides health care services, on a sliding scale starting around $25, for all family members, regardless of age, medical history, immigration status or insurance coverage.

The clinics keep the average cost per patient per year at $493. That compares with a nationwide average of about $9,000, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers. Even one emergency room visit can exceed $2,500.

Variety Care focuses on prevention and wellness, Carmichael said.

‘They caught it early'

Tony Weatherington, 39, of Oklahoma City, says Variety Care had made a huge difference in his life.

“I lost my father when he was only 59 years old. My family was unaware of his high blood pressure and high cholesterol. We caught it too late,” he said.

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