When COVID-19 hit, all healthcare facilities were instantly impacted. Residing in one of the states hit early and heavily, California FQHCs stepped up to provide healthcare to thousands of California residents. Victor Christy, the Assistant Director of Legislative Affairs with the California Primary Care Association (CPCA), spoke during The Inline Sessions about this response from FQHCs and educated attendees on how they could use their COVID stories to have an impact on healthcare legislation that comes from the pandemic.
“We’re the ones that know what the community looks like...there’s no other entity that knows the community more than health centers.” -Victor Christy, CPCA
FQHCs were quick to step up to the plate when California began to see the impact of the pandemic. Across the state, FQHCs opened testing locations to meet demand. But these health centers are playing a much larger role during this pandemic than testing centers. With the unemployment rate in California reaching 16.4% during the peak of the pandemic, many workers also lost insurance benefits. With an overarching mission to serve the underserved and uninsured, FQHCs are one of our greatest resources both during a pandemic and after.
After California declared a state of emergency, FQHCs were granted an opportunity: increased healthcare access through telemedicine. Ordinarily, facilities don’t receive insurance reimbursements for telemedicine appointments. But COVID-19 changed this. With stay-at-home orders drastically lowering the number of people visiting the doctor for non-COVID concerns, many facilities have faced shutdowns and layoffs. Telemedicine plays a major role in preventing this by empowering facilities to continue providing care and generating revenue.
What does all of this mean in the long term?
During his Inline Session, Victor left us with one major takeaway: reach out to your legislators. We have access to telemedicine now, but once the state of emergency ends, so does telemedicine reimbursements. By reaching out to your elected officials, you open up the opportunity for your voice to be heard through new legislation. And reaching out to them is much easier than you think.
CPCA’s key contact program provides an outlet for healthcare professionals to spread their message. It begins with a simple question, “Do you have a relationship with your member of congress?” If so, these individuals are encouraged to reach out and inform them of the healthcare industry’s needs. If not, CPCA can provide a helping hand. (For health centers not in California, the National Association of Community Health Centers can help as well.) Starting small, such as following your legislators on social media, is a great start. Simply commenting on posts or sending an encouraging direct message begins the process. To get more in depth, set up Google alerts (learn how to do this here). This way, when reaching out, you can reference their latest op-ed or interview. The main goal is to maintain a healthy relationship between your health center and legislators.
So once you have a relationship with these officials, how do you make a difference? Your best resources are your stories and experiences. More specifically, the experiences you’re having during the pandemic. As it applies to healthcare, there are many aspects of the state of emergency which could positively impact healthcare when the pandemic ends. By sharing impactful stories with your elected officials, you equip them with the ability to implement the changes healthcare professionals want to see. To learn more about the impact you can make and to watch the full webinar with Victor Christy, click the link below.