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Former Reading Hospital health center in Reading gets federal boost

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Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 5:07 pm | Updated: 12:37 pm, Thu Jun 28, 2012.

The newly opened Berks Community Health Center, at 838 Penn Street in Reading, received a welcome boost Wednesday, June 20.

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced that the center will be a federally qualified health center.

“Reading needs a comprehensive family health center that is accessible and affordable,” said Art Grim, co-chairman of the Berks Community Health Center board and a Berks County Court of Common Pleas senior judge.

The Berks center is one of only 219 organizations across the nation that received grant awards this year and one of five in Pennsylvania.

Berks Community Health Center is the only federally qualified health center in Berks County.

The center qualifies for an annual $650,000 grant and immediate federal status, two key ingredients that will help it quickly offer greater access to primary and preventive health care.

Federally qualified health centers are independent, community-based organizations that receive higher levels of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for providing primary-care services in targeted underserved areas.

The opportunity for a higher level of reimbursement means more patients will be able to receive high-quality care without financial burden to themselves or the community,” Grim said.

The federally qualified centers also offer services such as dental and mental-health care, on site or in collaboration with other organizations.

The Berks Community Health Center opened June 4 at the site of the former Reading Health Dispensary.

It is run by a nonprofit board comprised of community members and center patients.

Opening the center was the culmination of years of collaboration by community groups, area hospitals and government and political leaders, said Gary Rightmire, co-chairman of the center board and retired Berks County Department of Public Welfare executive.

“The FQHC designation is great news for Reading and for the entire county,” he said. “Today’s thrilling news gives BCHC the ability to hit the ground running. We were opening our doors on June 4, with strong financial support from the Reading Hospital, along with other community groups. Now, with FQHC status, our momentum will be even greater.”

The Affordable Care Act [“Obamacare”] provided $9.5 billion to expand health services over five years and $1.5 billion to support construction and renovation projects at community health centers.

The number of patients served by community health centers is expected to grow by about 1.3 million nationally over the next two years.

Any county resident can designate BCHC as their primary care provider, whether they are uninsured, privately insured, or covered by Medicare and Medicaid.

BCHC has a sliding scale fee structure, based on federal poverty guidelines, making primary healthcare affordable to all.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Reading is the poorest city in the nation with nearly one-third of city residents at or below the U.S. poverty guidelines.

The formation of BCHC in October 2010 was supported by a broad group of community organizations that included the United Way of Berks County, the Berks County Community Foundation, the Wyomissing Foundation and the Berks County Medical Society, along with both area hospitals.

“At BCHC we do things differently by taking a comprehensive, long-term approach to healthcare. Our goal is to develop a sustained partnership with our patients, their families and the community,” said Mary Duden, acting center chief executive officer.

The center hopes to have 16,000 patients the first year and 32,000 the second year.

As it grows, it will offer additional services such as dental, mental health, ob/gyn and podiatry at 838 Penn St.

Officials hope to eventually expand to other Berks County communities.

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Welcome to the discussion.

3 comments:

  • roger posted at 7:47 pm on Thu, Jun 21, 2012.

    roger Posts: 1

    Jeffrey----the center is not owned by Reading Hospital. It is run by a community healthcare group. Has been since June 1.

     
  • Jeffery posted at 5:11 pm on Thu, Jun 21, 2012.

    Jeffery Posts: 21

    The Reading Hospital & Medical Center is a Non-Profit, pays no taxes to West Reading, Reading or anyplace they have an office. According to Guidestar (non-profit clearinghouse site and according to last tax returns) the main listing shows Revenue of $731,186,401. Reading Hospital Medical Group, $43,185,424. Reading Hospital at $23,689,610. Friends of the Reading Hospital at $426,803 and the Reading Hospital Medical Center Insurance Fund at $406,686 for a grand total of $798,895,106.00!! Yes , Almost $800 Million!! Just 200 shy of ONE BILLION!! I am happy they got the Federal Money over less deserving organizations!! Whew!

     
  • Matriarchy posted at 5:34 pm on Wed, Jun 20, 2012.

    Matriarchy Posts: 9

    As an under-served health care consumer in Berks, I have been watching this story closely for many months. I am happy to see this center open and qualify for federal funding. Members of my family receive Medicaid but have been unable to find medical practices that will accept new patients. We signed up for the new Center on the day it opened. But I wish they would hold off on publicity until the new patient intake system is up and running. They are currently unable to make appointments for new patients who designate them as Primary Care Providers. People who previously received Urgent Care at the former Reading Hospital Dispensary must now go to a hospital emergency room for minor issues, even if they the new Center is their official PCP, until they are able to set appointments. The press releases are a little ahead of the actual capacity to provide care. promising as it is to have a nice new FQHC for Reading and Berks.

     

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