Kaiser Health News Reporter Andrew Villegas profiles Scituate, Rhode Island, population 10,000, where town officials launched a program to provide basic, preventative care to the uninsured:
It all started in 2000 when town officials were looking to provide cheaper health insurance for their employees. This effort led to establishment of the Scituate Health Alliance, which now provides the town's uninsured people – about a hundred – with primary health care services to head off serious health issues before they start. It is not health insurance. The program does not pay for hospitalizations or procedures such as root canals, hip replacements or cancer treatment. Instead, it focuses on annual physicals and sick visits to doctors, flu clinics, health screenings, eye exams and prenatal and breastfeeding information.
The alliance, a community-based non-profit organization, cobbles together the funding for this program from a variety of sources – the town itself, its community block grants, and even from bake sales and walk-a-thons. The annual budget, which generally hovers around $30,000 a year, pays participating doctors $25 per patient per month. The only cost to the patient is $10 per visit. The reasoning behind the town's plan is it will enable people to address the relatively minor health problems while also receiving the preventive services that go a long way toward lowering health care costs.
This program aired on December 16, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.