State Sen. Bob Rankin visits Summit Community Care Clinic to hear concerns

State Sen. Bob Rankin talks to Summit Community Care Clinic CEO Helen Royal at a tour of the clinic Friday, July 17.
Libby Stanford /

FRISCO — State Sen. Bob Rankin, of Carbondale, visited the Summit Community Care Clinic on Friday to hear about what the clinic needs to continue serving its patients.

Rankin spoke with CEO Helen Royal and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kathleen Cowie about the clinic’s future, advancements in health care across Colorado and the clinic’s approach to the novel coronavirus. Rankin took the opportunity to listen to Royal and Cowie’s concerns and get a sense of how the clinic runs.

The biggest concern for the clinic is its future financial situation. While it is fully funded through 2020, Royal said she’s worried about what the next year will bring. 

“There are days where we have to check the bank account because it’s payroll,” Royal said. 

The clinic is funded in a number of ways. Grants from the federal and state governments and other organizations make up 45% of the clinic’s funding. While some of the state grants were cut, the clinic is able to stay afloat through 2020 because of the federal and state funding. 

All of the clinic’s foundations pivoted to allow money to be used for general operations rather than requiring the clinic to spend the money in specific ways, which was a big factor in being able to stay afloat, Royal said. 

“Currently, because of the federal support, we’ve been able to do some future planning,” Royal said. “So we think through 2020 we’re looking pretty (good). We’re forecasting 2021, and we’re nervous about that.”

Revenue is the other piece of the clinic’s funding pie. Because of the novel coronavirus, the clinic lost about 25% of revenue this year. The clinic also had to move its annual Soup for the Soul event online, which typically brings in $200,000 for the clinic.

“Because our payer mix has always been so poor and we could never support ourselves on our revenues, we’ve always had to get creative in keeping the doors open,” Royal said. “The grants, donations and all the fundraising has been what fills the hole.”

If revenue doesn’t increase in 2021, the clinic will have to go back to donors and grants for funding, a strategy that is hard to rely on long term. 

Royal and Cowie both emphasized the importance of telehealth and reinsurance bills, which allow undocumented people to access the health care they need. Around 42% of the clinic’s patients are uninsured, but reinsurance programs like the Peak Health Alliance have helped decrease that number. 

Recently, Gov. Jared Polis signed a reinsurance bill into law that allows undocumented people to use the program. Rankin sponsored the bill along with Rep. Julie McCluskie in 2019.

“(It) is really big for our community because many of our undocumented are uninsured,” Cowie said. 

Polis also signed a telehealth bill requiring insurance carriers, including Medicaid, to cover telehealth visits for physical, behavioral and mental health care. Cowie said keeping telehealth alive long term would help the clinic provide its services. 

The clinic also provides dental, behavioral and physical care in schools in Summit, Park and Lake counties. Cowie and Royal said their school clinics are a major concern. With the future of schooling unknown, the two worry about how those services will continue. 

“Right now, we’re not sure as we look to the schools what that demand is going to look like because we’re having trouble accessing kids, and they’re not engaging as well in telehealth,” Royal said. 

After the meeting, Rankin said he’s most focused on helping clinics like the one in Summit stay afloat. 

“We have to really watch their finances,” he said. “I’m worried about what happens in January when that money starts to run out. We had some issues going into this, and they won’t go away.”

Rankin championed the telehealth progress and said there needs to be more focus on monitoring those who are uninsured. 

“We really have to monitor how many people are uninsured both now and particularly after people start going back to work and getting off of Medicaid,” he said. “A lot of them are going to have a hard time affording private insurance.”

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