Letter: Medicaid care not substandard

In an April 26 Arizona Republic news story, state Sen. Kelli Ward was quoted as saying she believes that Medicaid offers "substandard care" and that expanding it reduces the incentive for people to improve their circumstances and get off the public dole.

As chief medical officer of North Country HealthCare, a community health center with 14 offices across the northern third of our state, I strongly object to the notion that we provide substandard care to Medicaid patients or that we treat our uninsured patients any differently than our insured patients, whether on Medicaid, Medicare, or private coverage. Our Mohave County offices treat many patients covered by Medicaid. Prior to the freeze on Medicaid, 43 percent of our patients in the Lake Havasu Health Center had Medicaid insurance compared to 31 percent in Bullhead City and 43 percent in Kingman. Today the percentage of patients covered by Medicaid has dropped to 24 percent in Bullhead City, 39 percent in Kingman, and 37 percent in Lake Havasu. All are given the same high level of primary and preventive health care.

Over three-quarters of the uninsured live in families where one or more individuals work and over 90 percent are from low-income or low- or moderate-income families. They are uninsured mainly because their employers do not offer insurance or they can't afford what's offered.

Sen. Ward was a physician for North Country Healthcare in Lake Havasu. Dr. Ward delivered excellent healthcare to all her patients and she is familiar with the strict guidelines and requirements that Community Health Centers must adhere to as well as the fact that Community Health Centers have to report on a myriad of measurable outcomes that demonstrate the commitment to the delivery of high quality, accessible health care for everyone in the community, regardless of insurance status.

Eric Henley, MD, MPH

Chief Medical Officer

North Country Healthcare