AlohaCare: Healthcare centers draw attention for insurance seekers - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

AlohaCare: Healthcare centers draw attention for insurance seekers

Darrin Sato Darrin Sato
Dr. Rio Banner Dr. Rio Banner
Ding Hu Ding Hu

By Tannya Joaquin - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Community health centers have branched out into communities statewide after humble beginnings.

"Kalihi Palama Health Center actually started out of church. We became a federally qualified health center," said chief operating officer, Darrin Sato.

Now, they're a big part of Hawaii healthcare. There's one on every island. The downtown Honolulu branch even attracted the attention of Chelsea Clinton when she campaigned for her mother's presidential run in 2008.

It's a safety net for the growing number of unemployed workers around the state who have suddenly lost their insurance coverage.

"We're seeing a lot of people actually cutting back on medications because they just don't have the coverage anymore," said Sato.

"People who don't have insurance, maybe are brand new immigrants and don't know the system are able to go to a neighborhood health center that's visible to them and get what they need," said AlohaCare medical director Dr. Rio Banner.

Without them, Banner says costs would soar as cases go untreated and end up in the emergency room.

"For preventive services we all need, they often would go without," he said. It'd be a real crisis if we didn't have HC to pick up the slack."

Community health centers stress preventive care with free fairs.

"Our adults we have a high incidence of chronic illnesses. Diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular diseases," he said.

Longtime patients count on the care they get-- at low or no cost.

"We're over 80 and we rely on the staff to keep healthy," said health center patient Ding Hu.

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