Kids Losing Health Insurance Can Be Helped By Clinic

Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program expired in September. CHIP provided health coverage for children (and pregnant women) whose family income exceeded the maximum to qualify for Medicaid, but was still close to the federal poverty level. In Idaho alone, CHIP provided benefits to 35,000 children.

Although the state is responsible for some of the funds, the bulk comes from the feds. A bill sponsored by Orrin Hatch, R-Utah and Ron Wyden, D-Ore is expected to pass at some point, but for now it’s projected that Idaho will run out of funding by the end of January eliminating healthcare benefits for these children.

Bonner Partners in Care Clinic is ready, willing and able to fill the void. BPICC was established in 2003 with a vision to provide residents access to basic health care regardless of their ability to pay. The Clinic is open one day a week, alternating Tuesday or Thursday, at 5:30 p.m. People line up at 5 p.m. at the Panhandle Health District Office at 2101 Pine Street.

Clinic will be held this Thursday, November 30 and again next Tuesday, December 5. The rest of the calendar can be found at www.bonnerpartnersincareclinic.org or on their Facebook page. It will be closed Christmas and New Year weeks.

“I feel like we’re a secret,” Amy Topp, BPICC Clinic Administrator said at a recent interview. “We’ve always treated children. People who literally make $5 over the amount to qualify for Medicaid can’t afford to buy insurance. They can’t afford the deductible and they can’t afford to pay for an office visit.”

It’s often a vicious circle. The kids are sick. Parents can’t go to work with the kids at home. Parents don’t get paid when they don’t work. Kids need a doctor’s note to go back to school. Parents don’t have the money to pay for a doctor’s visit because they haven’t been working. That’s when BPICC comes in Topp said.

“Can you imagine what it’s like? You lose your job and you run out of your prescription,” Topp said. “I hear people say ‘I didn’t get my meds because I had to pay for my kid’s meds.’ I hate to think there are people out there who don’t know about us.”

Who can go to the clinic? Anyone. Well, just about. They see patients with mild or minor illnesses. Those with chronic problems like hypertension, thyroid, cholesterol and diabetes issues. They’ll see those with infections such as strep, flu, bronchitis and sinus.

They don’t see people with broken bones or open wounds. Nor do they see people who are just shopping for their addiction. “We don’t provide any narcotics or barbiturates,” Topp said. “We turn those people away.”

One of the most important benefits to the community is that Bonner Partners in Care Clinic can help an individual manage chronic illness before it becomes catastrophic requiring a taxpayer funded trip to the hospital. Although some questions about ability to pay may be asked, there is no verification process. Everyone who comes is eligible to be seen.

The clinic is staffed by local physicians, family nurse practitioners and nurses who volunteer their time, not only on clinic evenings but are on-call as well. Topp manages the triage. The clinic phone number is 208-255-9099. Leave a message and Topp will get back to you.

Bonner Partners in Care clinic is funded by the community. The more money raised, the more dollars will be put towards providing medications, diagnostic imaging and lab work. Topp said that a recent grant from 101 Women allowed her to pay for an individual’s needed biopsy. Obviously, funding is always a challenge and if you can help it would be much appreciated by those less fortunate.

None of us has guarantees that we won’t someday be in need of these services, so it’s a good time to think about making a difference. Monetary donations can be made to Bonner Partners in Care Clinic, 2101 Pine Street, Sandpoint, ID 83864. Volunteering is not restricted to medical providers; they’re also needed to help with typing, filing, organizing, public speaking and fundraising. Please spread the word.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 208-264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.