Compassion Outreach provides an essential service for Ada, one that is not available from any other source. Despite the promise of the Affordable Care Act, the poorest patients in the United States still cannot afford medical care. Deductible payments, co-pays and high policy limits make heath care unobtainable for the patients we see. One typical story* will help:
A man who suffered a disabling neurological injury four years ago came to the Compassion clinic for the first time for treatment of diabetes. He was unable to work, despite owning and operating a small business in Ada only four years ago. His sole source of income was Social Security Disability, which pays him $214/month. He lives by himself and normally eats one meal a day, which he buys at Dollar Saver. He cannot afford fresh food, nor can he cook anything for himself, due to his past injury.
His young child stays with him several days a week so that his estranged wife can work to buy clothing and an evening meal for the youngster. If the child wants lunch, he shares his food, trying to buy things the child likes so she will feel loved. For him to purchase even the least expensive medications at a discount pharmacy is impossible. Paying anything for insurance or a medical outpatient visit is beyond consideration.
That evening, Compassion provided the medications he needed to stay well, and out of the local emergency room or hospital. In addition, Compassion started the process to find medical resources to pay for his medications in the future. That night, we were able to promise him a safety net of care until more could be done. He came to the clinic as a desperate, depressed and tearful man — and left with hope. He could not imagine someone caring enough to give him the help he needed, nor assist him in the future. In the last four years, no one had reached out a hand to help him recover the life he knew, to help him to help himself.
His story is repeated over and over on each clinic day. Compassion provides what no one else in Ada is able to provide: a home for health care for the poorest members of our community.
*A composite history for the sake of illustration.
Curtis E. Harris, MS, MD, JD, FCLM, is the chief of endocrinology for the Chickasaw Indian Nation and director of the Chickasaw Nation Diabetes Care Center. Prior to his current position, he was in private practice as an endocrinologist in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for more 25 years, with a specialty of diabetology. He has been president of the Oklahoma Chapter of the American Diabetes Association; and in 1998, he was the first physician in Oklahoma to receive the American Diabetes Association Physician Excellence Award, with Distinction. In May 2007, he was elected to the Federation of State Medical Boards, which is the oversight organization for all of the medical licensure boards in the United States and the Protectorates.