Faced with increasing pressure from the number of uninsured patients in Texas County who seek care through the Texas County Memorial Hospital emergency department, officials have implemented a new primary care walk-in clinic in Houston.
Wes Murray, chief executive officer at TCMH, detailed operations of the clinic to hospital board members at last week’s monthly meeting. The walk-in clinic, which is open weekdays, operates out of the TCMH Medical Complex in Houston. Chip Lange, PA, and Jeff Blue, PA, see patients of all ages Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.
“Over 50 percent of the patients seeking treatment in our emergency department are not able to pay for the care they receive,” Murray said. “The walk-in clinic provides a convenient and low-cost way to see a healthcare provider for primary care needs.”
In September, TCMH had $612,997 on the books as bad debt from patients who could not pay their hospital bills. Fifty-three percent or $324,888 of the bad debt was generated through the emergency department.
“Increasingly, the emergency department is the primary care clinic for patients that are not established with a local healthcare provider,” Murray said.
TCMH is required by state and federal law to provide healthcare for anyone that comes to the hospital emergency department or to anyone that calls an ambulance regardless of his or her ability to pay for services rendered.
The mid-level providers at the TCMH Medical Complex — Lange and Blue –– are keeping an open and flexible schedule to see patients that want to walk in for immediate care without an appointment.
“The billing for the walk-in clinic will be like the billing at any of our hospital clinics,” Murray said. “It will be at a much lower cost because it does not utilize the acute care staff, physician and services of our hospital’s emergency department.”
TCMH continues to remain hopeful that Medicaid expansion will provide relief for many residents in Texas County who are not able to afford the expanded healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act. However, Medicaid expansion will not occur without action by the Missouri state House of Representatives and Senate.
“We believe this walk-in clinic will help us continue to address the healthcare needs of the communities we serve through a significant number of open appointment times that are available daily as well as helping us trim costs that we are not being paid for,” Murray said.