Chestnut Health Systems in Bloomington is receiving nearly $600,000 in federal money to serve the poor. The eleven Illinois grants announced Wednesday total nearly $6.5 million. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced more than $128 million in awards to health centers in 41 states. Chestnut Chief Operating Officer Alan Sender says the grant recognizes Chestnut's health clinic as a federally qualified health center, the only one in McLean County. Sender says it's primarily designed to serve Medicaid clients.
"A medical home for them where there is a consistency of care, where there is coordination of care, not only coordination within the clinic but also coordination with specialists and other practices within the community."
Sender says twin cities hospitals have enthusiastically supported Chestnut's application for certified federal status.
"Trying to keep people out of emergency departments and having the consistency of care is very important. It's what makes health care for all of us work."
As Medicaid reimbursement rates have fallen few doctors now accept Medicaid patients in their offices. Sender says many people on Medicaid simply don't seek regular treatment and this grant will help them do that. Sender says the twin cities has never had a clinic that filled this particular niche before.
"Chestnut Health Systems took a pretty good risk a year ago, to be perfectly candid and created this clinic not only because we saw a need for our clients, but in the general community."
He says the Community Healthcare Clinic in Normal focuses on uninsured people, so there is no duplication. Sender says the Health and Human Services Department money will also allow Chestnut to hire a few more staff as it expands care. Other Illinois cities with Affordable Care Act grant awardees include Aurora, Chicago, East St. Louis, Elgin, Galesburg, La Grange and Springfield. Health center officials are pleased the grants came before the Supreme Court's decision on the health law, which is expected this month.
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