Program provides regular health care to 800 low-income adults

June 24, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

For want of health insurance, Michael McCartin of Glen Burnie very nearly died.

Mr. McCartin, 27, who couldn't afford seizure medication or recommended monthly visits to a doctor, wound up in the emergency room at North Arundel Hospital in January 1993 after having a seizure. While he was there, he had a second seizure that stopped his heart. Doctors were able to revive him.

Now, Mr. McCartin is enrolled in the Anne Arundel County Health Department's Primary Care Program, which offers regular health care services to 800 low-income working adults. He will be able to afford regular check-ups and the medicine he needs.

County officials, who are providing the health services through North Arundel Hospital's Community Health Center, unveiled the program yesterday. It is an extension of one announced last year that provides health insurance for the children of the working poor -- "gray area" children.

With it, Anne Arundel becomes the first local government in Maryland to offer coverage for their parents and other adults in a similar bind. The adults will receive routine examinations and screenings, physician office care for minor injuries and illnesses, and certain prescriptions. Hospitalization and emergency room care is not covered.

Mr. McCartin, who said he "hadn't been able to get any medical insurance because I've got all sorts of problems," has been assigned his own physician, Dr. Maryrose Eichelberger, and has received medical services "four or five times" in the past month.

Frances Phillips, county health officer, said a major advantage of the program is that patients see private doctors associated with the New American Health Network.

Once enrolled, participants receive health care cards that they present to the doctors when making office visits.

"There's not a stigma attached to a public clinic," Ms. Phillips said. "It's mainstream medicine."

Dr. Eichelberger said some of her patients are amazed when they realize they can come back to her for normal and minor health care needs. One patient asked her if he could come back if he had a cold, "and I said 'Sure, I'm your doctor now.' "

Health officials estimate that 40,000 people in Anne Arundel County, about 15 percent of the population, have no health insurance. A third of that number are children.

Many belong to families of the working poor whose employers do not offer health coverage. They make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, the government-sponsored health care program, but not enough to buy their own coverage.

The county program will offer services from offices in Glen Burnie, Odenton, Severna Park, Pasadena and Owensville.

It will cost $500,000 for the first year and will be paid for with state funds given to the county health department.

Applicants to the program must be residents of Anne Arundel County, at least 19 years old, have no medical insurance or medical assistance (such as Medicaid) and have a gross yearly income of no more than $13,620 for a family of one, $18,204 for a family of two, $22,788 for a family of three, or $27,384 for a family of four.

In January 1993, Mr. McCartin was making $4.75 an hour, paying rent and taking three of the five pills a day prescribed for him because he couldn't afford to take more, he said. His family doctor was whoever happened to be on duty in the emergency room.

"I wasn't seeing a doctor like I was supposed to because it cost $65 for the visit and $15 to have my blood drawn," he said.

The county program has "really helped a lot," he said.

His fiance, Darlene Bedsole, 20, said Mr. McCartin's ability to see the same doctor regularly has given her some peace of mind.

"We're both happy he has somewhere to go now. Because there was no one to ask, 'Is this normal, is that normal?' " she said. "It's kind of hard to see a loved one suffer and not be able to do anything."

For more information, call 222-7089.

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