Clinica receives federal grant to help low-income patients

Clinica Family Health Services in Lafayette will receive $254,000 from the federal government to help its mostly low-income patients buy health insurance online.

Every U.S. resident must sign up for health insurance coverage by Jan. 1 or pay a penalty under the federal Affordable Care Act approved by Congress and signed into law in 2010.

To help uninsured folks in Colorado, the federal government recently gave a $3.1 million grant to 17 community health clinics around the state, including the money received by Clinica.

Clinica has six health clinics and a couple of corresponding dental clinics in the region, including one in Boulder, one in Lafayette and several in north Denver. Clinica has not said yet how it plans to use the grant.

Maureen Maxwell at the Colorado Community Health Network said the money will be used to hire new workers to help patients sign up for new government subsidies, or for Medicaid, if they qualify.

Supporters have said getting poor people covered by health insurance is one of the big goals of ACA.

At the same time, folks working on creating Colorado’s online insurance marketplace – called Connect for Health Colorado – say the state is on track to meet a federal deadline to have it operating by Oct. 1.

The website is being billed as a place where customers will be able to compare insurance plans and prices and buy insurance. About 300,000 currently uninsured people in Colorado are expected to use the new program.

Connect for Health Colorado also just received close to $120 million from the feds. The money will pay for a phone center in Colorado Springs, and new worker training, among other things. Connect for Health previously received $63 million in federal Health and Human Services grants, according to a press statement.

Women’s health in Erie

Obstetrician and gynecologist Alison Mall and nurse Stephanie Traver are the duo at the new Avista Women’s Health practice at 610 Mitchell Way in Erie.

It’s part of Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville, which is part of the Centura Health system.

Mall holds a medical degree from the University of California-Irvine College of Medicine and worked at clinics in Denver and in Waterloo, Iowa, before coming to the Erie clinic.

Mountain tip of the day

I often think of acute mountain sickness as something that happens to out-of-state visitors who hang out in the Colorado high country.

So it was a surprise to hear that four Coloradans were among the eight people who went to Longmont United Hospital in 2012 with AMS symptoms. Of those, one person was 82 years old and the others were 31, 26 and 18.

The hospital released its list of its 2012 acute mountain sickness patients recently, along with a tip sheet for how to avoid the misery-inducing illness. Symptoms range from dizziness and headache to nausea and not being able to sleep at night.

Doctors say the sickness often sets in at elevations greater than 8,000 feet above sea level.

To combat AMS, drink lots of water when you’re out and about – especially at higher elevations. If you feel yucky, heading back to a lower elevation can often help, too.

Of the other four AMS patients at Longmont United Hospital last year, one hailed from New York, one was from Ohio and two came from Virginia.

Affordable Care Act redux

At the beginning of July, the Obama administration said it would delay until 2015 the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

The mandate had been slated to go into effect on Jan. 1. Under the mandate, employers with 50 or more employees must offer health coverage or pay a fine of $2,000 per employee on each worker they have over a 30-person threshold.

Nationally, some restaurants have said they’ll change their staffing patterns and hire more part-time workers to avoid having to meet the employee mandate.

Just before the Obama administration announced the delay, a survey from Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. found that just 2 percent of respondents said they did not offer health coverage and had no plans to add it. Some 82 percent said they would continue what they’re doing. About 11 percent of survey respondents said they had not decided how their companies would deal with the ACA provisions.

“Companies we talked to had already set their plans. This may just buy more time to implement this and get everything in place, which is good,” said James Pedderson, a spokesman for the global outplacement consultant company in Chicago.    

Beth Potter can be reached at 303-630-1944 or bpotter@bcbr.com.

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