The year 2020 marks the 15th Anniversary of Grand County Rural Health Network’s A.C.H.E.S. & P.A.I.N.S. Healthcare Voucher Program.
The children’s healthcare voucher program started when providers and community partners realized uninsured children were not learning in school because they had untreated medical and dental needs. This program started as a partnership with both school districts, Grand County Public Health, medical and dental providers, Grand County Rural Health Network (GCRHN) and other community partners. Nowadays, A.C.H.E.S. healthcare vouchers are available for uninsured children ages 0-17 who qualify financially. The services covered include preventative and acute dental needs, acute medical and well-child exams, mental health needs, prescriptions, and supportive services like gas vouchers to get to health appointments. The vouchers are accepted at any Grand County medical, dental, and mental health office. Additionally, Jackson County children and pregnant women have access to dental vouchers.
In 2008, Grand County Rural Health Network saw a strong need for heath vouchers for adults, and the program was expanded to incorporate the P.A.I.N.S. program. These healthcare vouchers are available for uninsured adults ages who qualify financially and cover acute medical and mental health care as well as prescriptions and supportive services like gas
vouchers to get to health appointments. The vouchers are accepted at any Grand County medical or mental health office.
Executive director of GCRHN, Jen Fanning, reports, “The number of uninsured individuals in Grand County was at or near 27% and held steady for a long time before the ACA [Affordable Care Act] was implemented. It was expected that ACA would fix it all. We saw some dramatic decreases for children since there were more opportunities for public insurance for children. In 2015 the number of uninsured dropped significantly to 9%. However, in 2019 the uninsured rate is back up to 17% after the financial penalty was removed from the ACA. Additionally, we expect it to keep increasing with the high cost of health insurance resulting in a high need for vouchers.” The state-wide average of uninsured individuals in 2019 was 6.5%.
Both healthcare vouchers do not cover emergencies or injuries.
Grand Country Rural Health Network is one of the only health networks in Colorado that offer a voucher program like this one. The reason being is that we do not have a community care clinic to assist those who are on Medicaid or are uninsured like other communities have for these individuals. According to Fanning, “In the past there has been some interest by local providers but then there was no funding or visa versa. And to start a community care clinic, we have to have both. The stars have just never aligned.”
The voucher program is not a sustainable program; 100% of its funding comes from local sources. State-wide foundations will not support the program since the program is not a school-based or community clinic offering. According to Fanning, “It’s a stop gap, and was never intended to be a permanent solution. And here we are, 15 years later. GCRHN has been continuing to seek a long-term solution and has been re-engaging the schools and health centers for discussions. ”
Additionally, GCRHN received a grant last fall for integrated care vouchers which provides an individual a voucher that could be used for a combination of medical, mental health, and prescription services to treat the entire person dealing with mental health needs. Also, local efforts have been made to educate the community about the stigma of mental health. Fanning noted, “We provided 59 mental health vouchers to 27 individuals last year alone. We had only given out a total of 61 vouchers in the previous 4 years.That is a direct reflection of the change in public awareness and the need for these services in our communities.”
To see if you qualify or for more information about the A.C.H.E.S. & P.A.I.N.S. program, contact your local provider, school nurse, or Rural Health Network. Grand Country Rural Health Network’s office phone number is (970) 725-3477 and website is http://www.gcruralhealth.com.