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Healthcare reform to put local clinics to test [Google+ hangout]

October 29, 2012 | 12:25 pm

Times reporter Anna Gorman will join City Editor Shelby Grad at 1 p.m. to discuss local clinics, which serve as a medical safety nets that help fill the unmet needs of poor, uninsured and chronically ill patients in struggling rural and urban communities.

But with demand expected to increase once provisions of President Obama's healthcare reform scheduled to begin in 2014, will these centers be able to provide care to everyone who needs it?

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From Gorman's weekend story on the clinics:

There are 1,250 federally funded clinics nationwide that provide healthcare and social assistance, surviving on a mix of grants, fundraising and reimbursements from government insurance plans.

The Great Recession brought waves of additional patients who had lost jobs and health insurance, and the federal government provided $2 billion in stimulus money to help with the influx.

Millions more low-income Americans are expected to begin seeking out doctors and routine healthcare in 2014 when they become eligible for insurance coverage. The Obama administration sees the clinics as a proven model for serving disadvantaged neighborhoods and, just as important, a cornerstone of efforts to control costs.

Federal officials are investing $11 billion to increase the clinics' capacity and help address the major shortage of private doctors in poor communities. Health centers serve more than 20-million Americans and by some estimates could add 10 million more as health reform rolls out.

It's a big bet that assumes the centers can attract new, insured customers and deliver cost-effective care that keeps low-income patients out of high-priced hospital emergency rooms.

The clinics are already feeling the pressure of competition, aware they won't be able to survive solely as providers of last resort for those who remain uninsured after healthcare reform is implemented. California clinics launched a new marketing campaign earlier this month, calling themselves California Health+, a community health service network offering complete care "under one roof."

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