When the pandemic began, LaVita King of Bridgeport worried about how she would continue to see her behavioral health therapist and primary care physician at Southwest Community Health Center. She lives close enough to walk to the federally qualified health center but didn’t feel comfortable leaving her home in those early days, let alone venturing into a medical office. But she’s been able to access care through phone and video chats. “For me, it’s been such a lifesaver, such a blessing,” said King, 69. “Otherwise, I would not have been able to talk to my behavioral health therapist for this whole entire time.
Community health centers that provide medical care to 400,000 low-income patients throughout the state are adapting to the coronavirus pandemic by shifting to telemedicine and reconfiguring the way the staff is offering in-person health services. But like many hospitals and businesses throughout the state, they are also facing deep financial losses during the public health emergency. Nevertheless, they continue to provide frontline medical services—from essential wellness checks such as childhood immunizations to COVID-19 screenings, officials said. “They are the frontline helping patients get to the right place at the right time during this very difficult circumstance,” said Ken Lalime, chief executive officer of the Cheshire-based Community Health Center Association of Connecticut. “It’s what they do all the time, but during this crisis, it becomes incredibly important.”
A network of community health centers throughout the state provides health care for about 11% of the state’s population by offering services on a sliding scale for those who don’t have insurance and by accepting Medicaid, Lalime said.
Over a dozen of the cooperative health insurers that started under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have failed, but leaders of Connecticut’s co-op say it is on track to turn a profit next year. “We’re very viable,” said Ken Lalime, CEO of Wallingford-based HealthyCT, a member-run, nonprofit health insurance co-op. “There are a lot of stable pieces of” HealthyCT. The co-op is enduring when others have died off, he said, by strategically adapting to changes in the ACA, and diversifying its portfolio. About a third of its business is insuring individuals, a third is small group policies and a third is large group insurance policies, he said.