The Oregon Health & Science University Scappoose Family Medicine staff saw the need to serve additional Medicare and Medicaid patients in Columbia County, then it found a way to help.
After more than a year of planning, the center recently was designated a federal Rural Health Clinic (RHC) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"With our new designation as an RHC we will receive federal reimbursement that will help us cover the cost of seeing both Medicaid and Medicare patients. This means we have opened our doors again to see all of these new patients," said Diane Hutson, clinic supervisor.
"There is a tremendous need in our area. We certainly are willing to do all we can to serve as many people as possible and to provide our patients with highest quality of care," said Bruin Rugge, M.D., M.P.H., medical director of the Scappoose center and instructor in family medicine, OHSU School of Medicine.
Since becoming a federally designated rural clinic, the center has added one part-time physician and plans to add a full-time physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant soon.
"We are committed to growing as necessary to accommodate our patient population, adding available hours, clinicians and staff," Hutson said.
The federal Rural Health Clinic Services Act was established in 1977 to help fund underserved rural communities.
"Having an RHC clinic in Columbia County turns its negative designation as an underserved area around because that is the very thing that makes our clinic eligible for the program," Hutson said.
The few health care clinics in the area quickly reach the maximum number of Medicaid and Medicare patients they can take and still remain fiscally sound enough to keep the doors open. Before the Scappoose center was a Rural Health Clinic, it could not accept any new Medicaid or Medicare patients. The application process took several months and involved many levels of participation. Ann O'Connell, R.N., M.S.N., executive director of OHSU Family Medicine at Richmond; Benjamin Cox, financial director of OHSU's Department of Family Medicine; and Sandra Leybold, OHSU business consultant, clinic staff and clinicians, and the support of the entire OHSU Department of Family Medicine led the effort to bring the Rural Health Clinic status to Scappoose.
Also recently, OHSU Family Medicine at Richmond was designated a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Look-Alike. This means the clinic also can expand its care not only to Medicaid and Medicare patients, but also to uninsured patients in its southeast Portland neighborhood. This designation provides more complete reimbursement for Medicaid and Medicare costs.