Grants put health care in lives of uninsured

For fifth straight year, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan giving up to $1 million to free clinics

May 8, 2009

DETROIT - Thousands of people with no health insurance get free or low-cost health care at Michigan's free clinics. To help keep those clinics going, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is offering grants totaling up to $1 million through its Strengthening the Safety Net grant program. It is the Blues' fifth year of funding nonprofit free clinics across the state.

In this year's Strengthening the Safety Net grant program, Blue Cross aims to help clinics be successful and sustainable. Ideal services include primary care and behavioral health care, case management, dental services, specialty and diagnostic care, and prescription drugs. The grant program also encourages applying clinics to adopt best practices such as care coordination and management, data collection and evaluation, evidence-based care and sustainability.

Clinics may get details on how to apply for a grant at Applicants must submit the online Notice of Intent form by May 29.

"In these difficult times, free clinics are putting health care in reach for people who need it," said Lynda Rossi, Blues vice president for Social Mission and Public Affairs. "Free clinics are a place for uninsured people to turn to for quality health care." Uninsured residents who get care in free clinics often otherwise would delay seeing a physician because of the cost, she explained. Delay often leads to more expensive care in emergency rooms and even hospital stays.

Surprisingly, most of Michigan's estimated 1.2 million uninsured residents are employed. More than 80 percent are in families with at least one adult working full- or part-time, according to 2007 figures.

The latest numbers available show 11.6 percent of Michigan residents had no health insurance in 2007, up from 10.5 percent in 2006. Those numbers likely have grown. Michigan's March 2009 unemployment rate soared to 12.6 percent, the nation's highest. Many laid-off workers struggle to maintain the health care coverage they had while they were working.

Since the inception of its free clinic grant program in 2005, Blue Cross has devoted a majority of its annual grant funding to projects designed to expand free medical care. Free clinics have used the Blues' funding to extend operating hours, establish new clinics and add services such as dental care.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has a mission that is different from other health insurance companies. The company is committed to focusing on reducing health care costs and improving quality, increasing access to health care coverage and services, and improving the health status of Michigan's residents, particularly children.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit organization, provides and administers health benefits to 4.7 million members residing in Michigan, in addition to members of Michigan headquartered groups who reside outside the state. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are nonprofit corporations and independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more company information, visit

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