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Need For Help Grows… Obamacare Spikes Put More Stress On People Seeking Medical Assistance

August 17, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By DEXTER DUGGAN

PHOENIX — A thriving medical program to assist the uninsured and underinsured in this metropolitan area has seen demand for its free services grow despite passage of Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA). In fact, the demand has become greater.
Catherine Amiot, president and executive director of the Mission of Mercy program here, said its leaders wondered if implementation of the ACA would make their role unnecessary, but the result has been just the opposite.
Simply presenting facts but not making political observations, Amiot spoke about her organization’s work to a gathering of the Catholic Physicians Guild of Phoenix in a meeting room at Phoenix diocesan headquarters on August 5.
Many people “just hanging on to a policy are going to fall off” because of increases in their health-insurance premiums, she said, adding that 400,000 Arizonans “are going to drop off health care in the next two years. That’s frightening.”
She pointed to the burdens of “huge deductibles and co-pays.”
Even her own doctor, as well as other physicians, has a limit on how long to spend with patients, Amiot said, but doctors serving Mission of Mercy can spend as much time as needed with people they see.
The number of underinsured and uninsured patients has spiked, she said.
“People should not die because they’re poor. People should not die because they’re uninsured,” said Amiot, adding, “I’m not a Catholic, but I love this Pope,” Pope Francis.
When Mission of Mercy began here, she said, “We were so naive that it never occurred to us that some of our patients would not speak English.”
Seeking more volunteers, Amiot told the Catholic medical group how her organization’s program has grown.
Planning to celebrate its 20th anniversary in October, the mission has “six clinics that operate throughout Maricopa County,” she said, from Avondale, on the west side of metropolitan Phoenix, to Mesa, on the southeast side.
Avondale had a population exceeding 82,000, according to a 2016 estimate, while Mesa had a 2016 population estimate of nearly 500,000 people.
Two more clinics will be added next year, she said, one each in the southeastern Maricopa County cities of Chandler and Gilbert.
The mission also serves people with two former recreational vehicles, and will purchase a third RV, she said.
“We’re redoubling our efforts to create a vital network of faith partners” with churches regardless of denomination, Amiot said. “. . . Because we’re 100 percent privately funded, every day is a walk of faith” that support will be available to continue the mission.
Its website (amissionofmer
cy.org) says:
“Our mission to restore dignity and provide ‘healing through Love’ is at the heart of everything we do. Restoring dignity means not accepting any funding that requires our patients to prove their poverty. That means we don’t take government or other funding that requires our patients to prove their poverty. We rely solely on donations from churches, private-sector civic organizations, corporations, foundations and individuals.”
“We have more than 300 volunteers that make our work possible,” Amiot told the Catholic gathering, and last year more than 25,000 hours were donated by volunteers in Arizona.
The Sonora Quest medical laboratories donate all lab work, she said. “They are an incredible partner,” donating more than $100,000 a month in lab services.
Mission of Mercy also has a joint program in Pennsylvania and Maryland, as well as in Texas.
Amiot told listeners that 20 years ago in California she had her own “frightening” experience when her estranged husband unexpectedly canceled her insurance although she needed costly surgery for her young son.
“It was the most frightening time of my life,” she said, as she felt her dignity was lost while having to jump through hoops before finally qualifying for health coverage. She can understand the situation, she said, of those being served by Mission of Mercy.
“If you have health insurance today, consider yourself lucky,” she said.
She quoted St. Teresa of Calcutta, who became known worldwide as a servant of the poor, as saying, “We must know that we have been created for greater things, not just to be a number in the world,” but created to love and be loved.
One of the small stained-glass windows in the chapel at the Catholic diocesan center here is of St. Teresa of Calcutta. Other twentieth-century saints depicted on chapel windows include St. John Paul II, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, St. Pio, St. Jacinta Marto, and two prisoners executed by the German National Socialists, St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
The Catholic Physicians Guild chapter here usually has a monthly gathering at the diocesan center, beginning with an hour for eucharistic exposition and Confession in the chapel, followed by Mass, then lunch and a program in a meeting room.

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