That the long-planned Petaluma Health Center Grand Opening celebration took place on the same day the 11th United States Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta struck down the “individual mandate” of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was certainly a coincidence remarked upon by many in attendance. While the three judge panel split 2-1 to discard the individual mandate, we can be assured that all those judges and their brethren have access to health benefits programs for federal employees which means none of them would need to refer to a Georgia Health Policy Center study regarding Health Care for the Uninsured in Metropolitan Atlanta.
Unlike federal judges, over nineteen million Americans rely on health centers such as the Petaluma site to provide their care. As Herb Schultz, United States Department of Health and Human Services Region IX Director, noted during his presentation on behalf of the Obama Administration at the grand opening celebration, community health centers provide primary care to many who would otherwise seek needed treatment in emergency rooms where it’s much more costly to deliver medical services.
Friday’s appearance in Petaluma was only one of the trips Mr. Schultz took to Sonoma County last week. On August 8th, he participated in the Redwood Community Health Coalition press conference and town hall meeting at the Sonoma County Indian Health Project in Santa Rosa. While that event was reported upon in The Press Democrat, missing from its coverage were the inspirational remarks of Dr. Jason Cunningham, Medical Director for West County Health Centers. He quite correctly observed that, “our current system doesn’t work.” A principal cause for its dysfunction is that we rely upon “disease care rather than health care.”
Coordinating medical and dental services for underserved populations with individualized attention in a primary care delivery system offering a patient-centered health home provides opportunities for significantly better overall outcomes than our dysfunctional disease care practices. Affordable and available health care for all Americans is what we need. Implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act offers us significant progress toward that goal.