Health Care Reform


For a PDF document of this statement click here: Health Care Reform and CommunityHealth

For information about how the ACA will impact our patients click here: ACA and You

For a calendar of scheduled ACA events at CommunityHealth click here: Affordable Care Act Events

The number of low-income, uninsured residents in need of health care has been growing across the greater Chicagoland area since CommunityHealth opened our doors in 1993. We have remained steadfast in our commitment to meeting this need by expanding our services, programs, and clinic sites. Throughout this time, we have also stayed true to our volunteer-based model of service delivery, whereby no fee is ever charged to our patients.

CommunityHealth is the largest free clinic in the nation, serving over 11,500 local residents through close to 30,000 visits annually. As has been the case for the past 20 years, our patients rely on CommunityHealth as their medical home for the care they so desperately need.

2014 marks the rollout out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the country’s landmark legislation that seeks to extend health insurance coverage to millions of uninsured citizens. This will be accomplished through Medicaid expansion and the availability of additional options via Health Insurance Marketplaces at the state/federal levels.

Over the past year, we have been assessing how CommunityHealth’s role in the community might change in this new era of health care reform. We looked at the question of how best to deliver on our mission to serve the uninsured by evaluating the strengths and limitations of the local safety net. We also sought the perspective of CommunityHealth stakeholders – from patients and volunteers to donors, funders, and institutional partners. Through this extensive process, we identified where the gaps in access are likely to be and what will be required of CommunityHealth – long recognized as the “safety net under the safety net” – to help ensure that our most vulnerable residents receive care.

As the ACA rolls out in the months and years ahead, we recognize that there will still remain over 500,000 uninsured Cook County residents in 2018. To meet this need, CommunityHealth will remain true to our mission and deliver on two primary commitments as the nation’s largest free clinic.

CommunityHealth’s Role in Filling Gaps

While the ACA will provide health insurance for millions of Americans, the reality is that many of the patients CommunityHealth serves today will still need our help. Why?

    • Immigration: The ACA does not provide coverage for those who are undocumented, nor does it apply to those who are legal residents until they have been in the country at least five years.
    • Affordability: Despite its name, there will be low-income individuals who will not qualify for Medicaid and who cannot afford to purchase insurance through the state marketplace, even with subsidies.
    • Transition: People who lose health insurance (e.g., job loss) may need support until they are able to secure new coverage.
    • Coverage Gaps: The ACA does not cover dental care, health education, and more. The newly insured population will still need access to these services.
    • Provider Availability: The shortage of Medicaid providers will limit access to care for many newly insured patients

CommunityHealth as a Navigator

Many of CommunityHealth’s 11,500 patients will benefit from Medicaid expansion under the ACA, and a smaller number will be eligible for subsidies through the state marketplace. To help ensure that our patients (and the broader community) have the information they need to understand and, when applicable, apply for this insurance coverage, CommunityHealth has trained “navigators” on staff to offer ACA education and enrollment as our newest core service.

 The transition of our ACA eligible patients will not happen overnight. It will take months, if not years, before all newly eligible patients have enrolled and successfully accessed the health insurance available to them. As these patients transition out of our care, thousands of uninsured patients who will not benefit from the ACA will continue to walk through our doors seeking support.

 It would be nice to think that the expansion of health insurance under the ACA would give us reason to close our doors, and maybe someday it will. But for now – and for many years to come – CommunityHealth remains dedicated to providing the highest quality, most comprehensive care possible to our most vulnerable residents and communities. This is our pledge, as “no one should go without health care.”