Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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January 17, 2014

Health care concerns

Disciples Clinic answers questions about Affordable Health Care

Athens — As provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act take effect, businesses, physicians and patients are concerned about what adjustments they might have to make.

Gary Williamson, Chief Medical Officer of Disciples Clinic of Athens, Texas Inc. has some answers about how the plan will affect the clinic’s patients.

The Disciples Clinic is a faith-based volunteer organization whose mission is to provide low-cost high-quality medical and dental care to the working uninsured of Henderson County.

The Clinic is in its fifth year of operation, and has served about 1,300 patients as a primary-care clinic. Many services beyond the walls of the Clinic have been arranged, including special tests, procedures, surgeries, consultations and assistance with expensive (but necessary) medicines.

“Almost daily,” Williamson said. “I am asked what effect Obamacare will have upon the clinic. This is a difficult question to answer, as there have been all sorts of problems with the initiation of the program. Its full effect may not be appreciated for several years. The potential ramifications for all people are numerous and uncertain. We have, so far, seen almost no effect upon our practice, but we anticipate some future issues.”

 Williamson said if some of the clinic’s  patients are able to acquire health insurance and find conventional health care providers, the clinic will have accomplished its goal of “Standing in the Gap” for those patients.  To provide temporary relief and care to working patients as they attempt to find conventional care has been the goal from the very first, and it will continue to be so.

“I am concerned that the cost of insurance has increased so dramatically that our patients will not be able to afford it, even if it is available,” Williamson said. “This is because the insurance companies, in anticipation of major losses in insuring pre-existing conditions, have dramatically increased premiums for everyone. I am also concerned that many employers may decide to accept the penalties proposed, and will not provide health insurance. Another way around it is to make most employees accept ‘part-time’ status, without benefits.”

Williams said another concern  is if Texas expands coverage by Medicaid to 140 percent of poverty level, there will not be enough primary providers who are willing to accept the meager payments that Medicaid provides.

“The Disciples Clinic remains fully-committed to providing the services we offer to the working uninsured who qualify, regardless of any government program,” Williamson said. “The Clinic accepts no government funds, insurance payments, or tax dollars, and we are totally dependent upon the generosity of our volunteers and donors to continue our work. The philosophy behind the development of the Clinic was, in part, to see to the needs of those working people in the ‘insurance gap’ whose problems have prompted the involvement of government in health care.”

Williamson said Disciples Clinic will continue for as long as the community supports it. It will adapt, as necessary, to provide care to the low-income working people in need.

  “The Lord has provided for the needs of the Clinic at every juncture, and we trust in Him to guide us on our way,” Williamson said. “The support from the community for this effort has been tremendous and historic. I want to thank all of you who have supported us with your service, your prayers  and your funds. We shall continue to do this work, and earn your trust and faith in us.”

The Disciples Clinic mailing address is P.O. Box 1757, Athens, TX  75751. The physical address is 604 York (corner of York and Walker Streets), and the phone number is 903-677-3604.

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