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Oklahoma health leaders envision plan to help Oklahoma County's uninsured

Several health leaders met over the past year to create a master plan of how to help Oklahoma County's uninsured residents receive better access to specialty care.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: September 7, 2012 at 12:46 am •  Published: September 7, 2012

Let's say there's a man who needs a colonoscopy.

Both of his parents died of colon cancer. He's employed but uninsured. And he knows his bill will probably be more than $1,000.

What's he going to do?

“Put yourself in that place — you're making $10 an hour, you're 50 years old and you need a $1,000 test, what are you going to do? Nothing,” said Lou Carmichael, the CEO of Variety Care. “You're just going to wait, even though your doctor knows it's probably indicated because of your family history.”

Several Oklahoma County community health leaders have spent the past year drafting a master plan on how to better serve people like this hypothetical man.

The group, known as the Commission to Transform the Health Care Safety Net in Oklahoma County, has proposed the creation of a network that would serve as a “single robust system for receiving, managing and distributing requests for donated specialty care,” according to the commission's report.

Within the plan, specialty care services are defined as “not only consults with sub-specialist physicians, but also labs and other diagnostic tests (e.g. X-ray), inpatient and outpatient procedures (e.g. surgery), referrals to behavioral health agencies/professionals, and access to certain medically necessary equipment and supplies (e.g. prosthetics),” according to the report.

About 90,500 Oklahoma County residents — roughly 13 percent — are uninsured and have household incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, according to the commission's report.

Oklahoma County is believed to have more community-based and faith-based health care safety net providers per square mile than any other major metropolitan county or region in the U.S., according to the report.

There are 12 federally qualified health centers and 19 charitable clinics in Oklahoma County.

One issue those clinics face is connecting people who are uninsured with specialty services that those clinics cannot provide.

Carmichael, a commission member, said hospitals or specialists will sometimes donate this care, but it isn't done so in an organized manner.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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