Public\Private Partnership meeting to help the uninsured: 2001 – 2002

Washington Square To The Rescue

Washington Square Health Foundation President Angelo P. Creticos,MD presents a major PRI grant check to Victoria Bigelow, President Suburban Primary Health Care Council as Ruth Rothstein, Chief, Cook County Bureau of Health Services and Ron Buck, M.Div., Founding Board Member Suburban Primary Health Council look on with appreciation.

The Suburban Primary Health Care Council operates the Access to Care program to provide primary care diagnosis and treatment care to the uninsured in their communities. Patients pay co-payments of $5- $30 to the providers of primary care – physicians, laboratories, hospital radiology departments, and pharmacies – while the Council pays the remainder of the discounted fees. Access to Care has been successfully operating since 1988, making it one of the first programs to utilize the services of private physicians in a decentralized network throughout suburban Cook County.

The Access to Care program is a public-private partnership. Most of the funds are public, from county, state, township, and municipalities, as well as private funds from foundations, churches, United Way chapters, etc. Cook County is the program’s largest and sustaining donor. The contribution of public funds given to a private charity that can obtain discounts from the private sector, represents a creative use of public funds to make the dollars go as far as possible. Public funds leverage approximately two million dollars in in-kind contributions and discounts from the private sector.

In 2001 patient utilization skyrocketed, leaving the Council with pharmacy bills that used up its working reserves. These reserves were traditionally used to pay bills for patient services in the early months of the year while the Cook County contract approval process took place. Ultimately, however, the reserves are designated for wind-down purposes. It was imperative that the Council replace the reserves for both purposes.

As an outgrowth of its 2001 Board retreat the Washington Square Health Foundation recognized the sever strain that the uninsured are putting on the health care system.

Washington Square also recognized the unique nature of this program and decided to invest in its sustainability, by providing a $300,000, five year Program Related Investment (loan) that will allow the Council to replenish its working reserves over time. Cook County approved and encouraged the Council to enter this relationship. The Suburban Primary Health Care Council is greatly appreciative of the Washington Square Health Foundation’s belief in the value of the Council’s Access to Care program for the uninsured indigent of Suburban Cook County.