Amazing things can happen when people work together for the common good, and Access DuPage is a prime example of this. Through the public organization, thousands of local health care professionals and hundreds of organizations seamlessly provide high-quality care to uninsured residents of DuPage County.
Since it began in 2001, Access DuPage has provided care to over 56,000 residents. “It’s a simple and elegant approach built on the foundation of what we had to offer here in DuPage County,” says Kara Murphy, president of the DuPage Health Coalition, which runs Access DuPage. “No one can afford to be uninsured. People who don’t have access to primary care services have no choice but to use the emergency room as their main source of care. That’s a really expensive and ineffective way to be healthy,” she explains. “It makes sense to invest in strategies that give people an alternative to the emergency room. We are so grateful that every hospital in DuPage County supports us financially and sees our patients in their facilities. It’s thanks to them and our other health partners that we are able to ensure our patients get the care they need in a manner which they can afford.”
Reassuring the Uninsured
Access DuPage is available to uninsured adults living at or below two times the federal poverty level. Participants enroll in the program for 12 months at a time and can reapply as long as they are not eligible for other insurance. “There is no substitute for having high quality health insurance,” Murphy explains. “We do a great job, thanks to our partners, but we always prefer that people be insured.”
Once enrolled, patients are assigned a primary care physician whom they see for a small copay. If a patient needs to see a specialist or have surgery, care coordinators connect them with the appropriate provider.
“Because we have so much commitment from our community partners, it costs us less than $400 per member per year to provide comprehensive health services. The remainder is written off by the volunteers and the hospitals,” Murphy explains. “Every dollar we spend in direct service for Access DuPage is matched by more than $10 worth of donated services.”
Enrollment information can be found at accessdupage.org. Providers interested in volunteering can complete a quick form on the website. “Our goal is to make sure it’s a positive volunteer experience for our providers. They decide the number of patients they will see and easily integrate them into their day,” Murphy points out. “We benefit greatly from whatever commitment level they are comfortable with. We just ask them to the things that only they can do, then we do our best to take care of all the other pieces.”
Sheri Scott, associate vice president for Edward–Elmhurst Health, has served on the DuPage Health Coalition Board since 2011. “It’s amazing to see all the hospitals sitting together at the same table with a common goal. We put aside any notion that we may be competitors and focus on the people in our community,” she explains. “It’s so important for health care organizations to think beyond the walls of an inpatient hospital and look at health from a broader perspective. This is a key program for us to be able to reach those lower-income families who might not otherwise be able to access health care.”
In addition to Access DuPage, the DuPage Health Coalition runs three other programs: Silver Access, which helps people pay insurance premiums through the Affordable Care Act marketplace; the DuPage Dispensary of Hope, a free pharmacy located in Wheaton; and Women’s Health Navigation Services, which supports screenings and treatments for breast and cervical cancer.
Photo Courtesy Edward-Elmhurst Health