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How Will Central Ohio's Community Health Clinics Fare Under New Legislation?

The new health care law stands to benefit as many as 150,000 Franklin County residents who do not have health insurance. Some of them go to community health clinics for care. The head of a group of Columbus clinics says he expects the number of people visiting the community clinics will increase as access to health insurance becomes more widely available. Columbus Neighborhood Health Center Incorporated runs five clinics in Columbus and Franklin County. The clinics serve people with a variety of needs. They provide service to the uninsured or to people who simply cannot pay for health care. And because they're located in neighborhoods, they meet the needs of people who lack transportation.

But as more and more people become insured under the just passed federal legislation, what's the impact on the local clinic? Columbus Neighborhood Health Center Director Tom Horan only sees positives. For starters, he predicts that people with neighborhood clinics will still use those clinics.

"They're going to go to the place that they're most comfortable within their neighborhood to receive that care so we fully expect that we will see an increasing demand for services because they're convenient still, they're located in neighborhoods where people live and they see the health center as part of their community," Horan says.

Horan says he expects an increase in visits as more people become Medicaid and Medicare eligible. In the long term, he says, community clinics will be able to add physicians and staff to meet the growing need.

"The more folks that will be covered under these different programs that are being reimbursed based on their costs, we'll be able to see more, we'll be able to add more providers and we'll be able to expand our services as the need and demand for services is going to increase," Horan says.

Horan says the health insurance overhaul is especially good news for the uninsured between the ages of 20 and 65. The legislation aims to insure them by 2014.

"Those are the ones that will be insured further down the line, who are really the ones that have really been lost in the system for a very long time," Horan says. "So we're very excited that those folks will be able to come in early. We see so many of those folks now, they have chronic illnesses: hypertension, diabetes; if they can come in early and start treatment early it's going to make a big difference in the health outcomes in the long term."

Horan says that people will not only have better health, but the health care system will save money by treating the chronically ill before they need expensive emergency treatments.