With a poverty rate of 48.8%, Fabens is the poorest town in Texas and it’s the only town where more than half of households live on less than $25,000 a year. Fabens is home to closely 10,000 men, women and children, of which 80% receive their health coverage through Medicaid.
In 2010, one of the last Kellogg Community Partnership (school based) Clinics in the El Paso area closed its doors. Without that nearby clinic, impoverished Fabens families had limited access to health care. Without a single bus line servicing Fabens, residents found traveling to access health care was grueling.
In 2012, I established the only private, stand-alone, family medical clinic in Fabens. It functions as a result of our partnership with El Paso Health who contracts with the state to manage Medicaid in our region. President and CEO Frank J. Dominguez makes personal visits to doctor’s offices. Dominguez and I believe it is critical to provide customized clinical services, according to the community needs, and to support the way Texas runs Medicaid using the managed care model.
This approach allows plans, such as El Paso Health, the flexibility to develop unique programs. Annually, they organize healthy Thanksgiving dinners and provide back-to-school backpacks loaded with school supplies.
We invest Medicaid funds in the latest technology for screenings and other preventive equipment enabling clinic efficiencies. For example, we have the ability to perform an in-office EKG and confidently assure a mother that her son’s heart is performing well, easing her mind while preventing an unnecessary hospital visit.
Our approach also means working beyond typical office hours. Fabens patients know that they can knock on my door, even after 5 p.m., and I will see them. It means sharing my cell phone number with patients and driving to meet a family in a shopping mall parking lot on a Saturday for a child that needs stitches.
Our specialist partners also open their doors so our patients avoid costly ER and hospital visits.
Today, these investments and modifications have paid off. Our clinic is one of the highest-ranked for meeting critical state standards for preventive health care and pediatric checkups called Texas Health Steps. For my patients, the number of ER visits that could have been prevented, a common measure used by the state and El Paso Health to determine outcomes, is by far the lowest rate in El Paso, and one of the lowest in Texas. Our clinic costs are also some of the lowest in the entire state Medicaid program, making our partnership a win for both patients and taxpayers.
As Texas legislators examine the effectiveness of the family medical clinic in Fabens, we, together with El Paso Health, want them to understand what we know firsthand. Medicaid is working for Texas families. We call on state leadership to continue to support the Medicaid so that clinics like the one in Fabens thrive.
Dr. Ulysses Urquidi operates the only private family medical clinic in Fabens.
Ulysses Urquidi Guest columnist