It appears that the financial crisis facing one of DC’s main health care providers for Latinos has been averted. In June, la Clinica del Pueblo announced it would have to cut services if it couldn’t recoup a $500,000 deficit. Interim executive director Enrique Cobham says an anonymous donor sent a check for $50,000 and has promised another $50,000 if the clinic can raise a matching sum of individual donations. Topped off with emergency help from the city, he says, the needed money will be in the bank soon enough to cover expenses.
La Clinica started as a one night a week drop-in center in the 1980s and now serves 7,500 patients a year, most of them uninsured Latino immigrants. For the most part, the clinic has kept up with growing demand. From 2000 to 2007, the budget rose from $1 million to about $7 million. But growth brought problems as well. Last summer, the federal government awarded the clinic certification as a federally qualified health center, which meant they could bill Medicaid at a higher rate and get access to additional grants and other federal funds. But the status also required an immediate expansion of services, which meant spending money they didn’t yet have. The cost of the expansion wiped out the center’s cash on hand, leading to the current situation.
Having overcome the immediate crisis, Cobham says his staff is “working on restructuring things to make sure we don’t get into this challenge again in the future.” In the long run, he says, la Clinica saves the city money by offering an alternative to the emergency room. “We play a major roll not only in serving community needs but also in reducing the incidence of more expensive health care that comes from people not receiving basic primary care,” he says.