Hillsboro physician Michael Reeh wants to start a health center to serve low-income Marion County residents who might not have insurance or be able to pay for medical services.
“It would be called Marion County Community Health Center,” Reeh said. “We would give health care at a discount rate to people who have low income.”
He learned what health centers were while attaining an MBA.
“What we will do is offer an outpatient setting at discount cost that would be free for people at or below poverty level,” Reeh said. “That way people can receive preventative treatment and hopefully be able to take care of health problems before needing to go to the ER.
If the health center comes to fruition, Reeh hopes it helps stabilize the local health care system, too.
He said the health center could potentially help Hillsboro Community Hospital and St. Luke Hospital reduce some bad debt patients who are unable to pay medical bills.
“It should help save money,” Reeh said. “There isn’t any other mechanism in place that pays providers for bad debt incurred from poverty level patients.”
Conversely, the program would not pay providers for debt incurred from patients who simply refused to pay.
“Health centers are a special entity within the government that provides primary care services in underserved areas,” he said. “Marion County is an underserved area.”
He said he has received a lot of encouragement from the community.
“Everybody I tell agrees that there are a lot of low-income people who would benefit from a health center,” Reeh said.
The need for such a center was one finding of a 2013 county health needs assessment conducted by Hillsboro Community Hospital, St. Luke Hospital, the county Health Department, and others, Reeh said.
“It found that 24 percent of county residents who were surveyed said they skipped medical treatment of a medical issue because they could not afford it,” he said.
Rules dictate the potential health center must be a non-profit organization, but he first needs to process a grant application, before that, he needs to have a piece of property with an address on it.
That’s where the City of Hillsboro comes in.
Reeh has talked with city administrator Larry Paine about the option of potentially purchasing a downtown property “immediately south of the dentist office across the street from city hall” to build the health center.
City council was scheduled to vote Tuesday on granting Reeh an option to buy the property but the meeting was postponed until today for lack of a quorum.
“It’s a good site,” Paine said. “If he gets the grant he will buy the ground. If not, we still have the ground for sale.”