HEALTH

Health centers offer primary care for NJ’s uninsured

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

Maritza Rivera goes to a Metropolitan Family Health Network location in Jersey City. The federally qualified health center is where she goes to monitor her diabetes.

“It’s close to my job and everything. If you have an appointment, you can walk over here,” she said.

Rivera doesn’t have health insurance, but here she’s able to walk in regardless of her ability to pay for the visit.

“There are a large number of patients who are uninsured, underinsured, who need health care, so we perform that task,” said chief medical officer Patrick Beaty. “What federal funding is really for, the dollars that they provide is really to offset uninsured patients.”

Beaty says federally qualified health centers tailor their services to what the community needs. At the location in Jersey City, there is a need for women’s health, pediatric care and management of chronic diseases, like in Rivera’s case.

“They put health centers in what are called medically underserved areas,” Beaty said.

New Jersey has 24 federally qualified health centers that operate 134 satellite locations across the state. About 1.8 million visits are made annually to New Jersey’s locations by nearly 538,000 patients, according to the New Jersey Primary Care Association.

“My providers average at least 20 visits a day. For example, last night I was here and I saw over 35 patients,” Beaty said.

Nationally, nearly 1 in 12 Americans rely on a federally qualified health center for primary care, according to federal data.

“One of the things you have to understand is that we’re embedded in the community, so we’re pretty much local to most people. Most patients who come here, walk. They literally walk into the facility,” he said.

Cynthia Robinson has known Beaty for over 20 years.

“We chose to stay here because of the people here,” Robinson said.

She says this health center has been instrumental in helping her navigate the best care.

“I come here sometimes when I’m overwhelmed,” she said. “If I go to someone else, they don’t know us. They don’t know our history, and that’s why it’s so important here.”

Health centers like this one have secured federal funding through 2019 — and advocates hope the funding will continue.