New Baltimore program helps the uninsured find health care

June 19, 2005|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,SUN STAFF

Baltimore health officials are promoting a new community outreach program that helps uninsured residents better understand their options for obtaining health care.

The Baltimore City Access to Care Program started two months ago with a $1 million grant and has outpaced initial projections, said Health Commissioner Dr. Peter L. Beilenson. He said 852 appointments have been made at community health centers, more than half of which were kept.

About a quarter of the city's population goes without health insurance over the course of a year, well above the national average, Beilenson said.

The program helps residents determine whether they have health insurance or are eligible for Medicaid. Many uninsured people turn to emergency rooms, which are costlier than the subsidized care available at community centers.

"The idea is that the sooner that you can get folks care, the less it costs ultimately, and that's why this program is so wonderful," said Glenn E. Schneider, executive director of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative, which is an advocate for universal health care.

Area health advocates praise the program but warn that it is only a quick fix for larger problems.

Beilenson, who is stepping down as health commissioner to run for Congress, said he hopes 4,000 people will enroll over the next three years. People ages 18 to 64 are eligible for the program, which includes help with substance abuse and mental health.

Information: 410-396- 9996.

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