Uncertainty looms for patients at community clinics ahead of proposed health care changes

Last Updated Mar 21, 2017 8:06 PM EDT

Community health centers served more than 24 million people in 2015, which means nearly 1 in 12 U.S. residents received their health care at a community clinic. With expected changes to Obamacare coming, these centers -- and their patients -- now face uncertainty.

One clinic that could see an effect is at the Erie Family Health Center in Chicago.

Dr. Mark Simon sees patients who are mostly the working poor.

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Dr. Mark Simon of Erie Family Health Care Center is shown treating a patient.

CBS Evening News

“People can come in and get their cancer screenings, their blood pressure checked, their cholesterol checked,” Dr. Simon tells CBS News. “And also I think equally important, they can have a medical home.”

Like many doctors at community health centers, Dr. Simon has seen his practice dramatically expand under Obamacare.

The number of patients Erie now serves has almost doubled over four years to more than 68,000; and 63 percent receive Medicaid.  Of the 24 million people the Congressional Budget Office estimates would lose their health insurance under the new plan, Erie Health estimates that could include 9,000 of its patients.

Sixty-one-year-old retired taxi driver Lesly Durand has heart disease and he could be one of them.

CBS News asked what kind of medical care Durand was getting before he had insurance.

“None whatsoever,” Durand said. “All I had to do is anytime I feel some pain, I had to go to Cook County Hospital,” he said. “I had to wake up at 3:00 in the morning to go take bus and train … to be there early.” His priority was to be first in the emergency room.

He now volunteers coaching soccer and recovered from quadruple bypass surgery last year. He dreads any change that could leave him without insurance … yet again.

“Anything happens... I’m gonna die,” he said. “Not just me but other people.”

On whether this keeps Durand up at night, he told CBS News: “Yes. Yes. It is. I think about people and see faces and see smiles and I feel like the that they might be slipping away.”

  • Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook