WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
Project Access participants must live in Hamilton County, have a family income below 150 percent of the poverty level and cannot be eligible for health insurance or other medical benefits such as TennCare or Medicare.
Source: Hamilton County Project Access
A community health partnership that provides health care to the working poor has delivered more than $75 million in services to nearly 7,500 people in seven years, officials with the Medical Foundation of Chattanooga announced Thursday.
Project Access was launched in 2004 to help Hamilton County residents who couldn't find health insurance but earned too much to qualify for TennCare or Medicare. It now has all three major hospitals and 600-plus volunteer physicians participating.
"[The program] is an incredible success story," said Dr. Phyllis Miller, president of the Medical Foundation of Chattanooga.
The program provides $31 in donated care for every dollar given, said officials who spoke at a news conference at the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults.
In 2011, 501 people enrolled in the program compared with 233 in the first year. The number of patients screened increased from 509 in 2004 to 1,079 in 2011, according to Project Access data.
These people "would fall through the cracks," said Memorial Health Care System President Jim Hobson, who was with the chief executives from Erlanger Health System and Parkridge Health System at the announcement.
Karen Manning was laid off in 2009 because of the economic downturn. Then she realized she needed to have spinal surgery.
A weakness in her arms was worsening, she said, but previous health problems kept her from getting approval for individual health insurance and the small jobs she worked didn't offer health benefits.
Without the surgery, she could have died or suffered paralysis, she said, but Project Access accepted her. Manning was able to get the procedures she needed.
"I can't say enough," she said. "They take care of people with kindness and consideration. They treated me like I had money [to pay]."
Seventeen percent of Project Access participants are able to go on to find work and obtain health insurance coverage, officials said.
"This is a dynamic partnership that has brought the health care of the community together in many important ways," said Erlanger CEO Jim Brexler in a statement.