An estimated 12 to 15% of the Arkansas population does not have health insurance and most are unable to afford the rising costs of health care. For the poor people who are ineligible for coverage by medical benefit plans such as Medicare and Medicaid, obtaining health insurance is sometimes impossible. Arkansas Health Care Access Foundation, Inc. (AHCAF) is trying to address this need by combating the disproportionate access to health care in the United States.
The operation of AHCAF, which now has 55,000 certified clients, is simple, yet effective. Clients enter the program through an uncomplicated application process at their county Department of Human Services office or Arkansas Public Health Unit. They have access to services by calling a state-wide toll-free number which refers them to volunteer physicians for non-emergency medical situations. A network of more than 1,000 physicians and 700 other health professionals and organizations volunteer to participate in the program including dentists, pharmacies, hospitals, pharmaceutical manufacturers, home health agencies and the Arkansas State Department of Health.
Benefits of this program for all involved are plentiful. The users of this program gain entry into a needed, complex and expensive system. The medical professionals have access to a simple, well-administered program that allows them to provide care to those truly in need. Finally, both the client and the Arkansas health system benefit by the potential to minimize cost by early medical intervention and less frequent visits to emergency rooms. Without these programs, research indicates the needs of the medically indigent will not be met.
The volunteer health care professionals that make up the Arkansas Health Care Access Foundation, Inc. have achieved commendable results in helping ill patients lacking health insurance. The program itself is innovative and comprehensive and is a way that the poor may receive more efficient, high quality care.