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Nonprofit helps uninsured stay healthy -- and avoid using ERs

Orlando Sentinel, August 12, 2011

On a quiet street south of downtown Orlando, a small, year-old nonprofit organization is doing what the state and federal governments have yet to accomplish: rescuing the uninsured, one patient at a time. Grace Medical Home -- a faith-based, primary-care practice with a modest budget, no government funding and dozens of skilled volunteers -- has helped more than 1,200 patients in its first year. All fall into the great crevasse of modern healthcare: They earn too little to afford private insurance but too much to qualify for Medicaid, and they aren't eligible for Medicare. The practice sees adults and children. Unlike an urgent-care clinic, it offers physicals, monitoring of chronic conditions, hearing and vision checks, X-rays, an on-site laboratory and social workers. Unlike a health department, at Grace, everybody knows your name. "They make you feel human. They make you feel loved," said 49-year-old Tammie Lipscomb of Orlando, a housekeeper who moonlights at a dry-cleaning business. The staff at Grace has helped her manage severe arthritis and high blood pressure, and get her first mammogram in 15 years. But she goes there for more than the staff's medical expertise. "Last weekend, I had a car accident on I-4, and I was so shook up that I went there just because I needed a hug," she said.