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Guaranteed Service

Local clinics like Westminster’s Clinica Colorado have an open-door policy—for those without insurance.

December 2011

If you’re out of work, chances are you don’t have health-care coverage. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get the treatment you need, thanks to a new crop of treatment centers such as Westminster’s Clinica Colorado. The center, which opened this past summer, is one of several Denver-area facilities that are treating uninsured patients for a small co-payment—and acting as a safety net for those who may slip through legislative cracks as health-care reform is put into practice.

These clinics, however, aren’t just for the uninsured, says Dr. Larry Wolk, founder and executive director of the Rocky Mountain Youth Clinics, which touts a health-care model like Clinica Colorado’s but is designed specifically for children. Patients who have private health insurance with punishing deductibles, for example, might instead choose to pay a $23 clinic co-payment.

What about Denver Health, the grande dame of the “we treat everyone” concept? Its services are invaluable, but patients who lack insurance in non-emergency situations must be Denver County residents, whereas these centers accept all patients. In fact, the majority of the clientele at Denver’s Clínica Tepeyac hail from outside the county, says founder and executive director Jim Garcia. Plus, Tepeyac streamlines patient care by not billing traditional insurance companies and avoiding piles of paperwork.

Still, the problem may be bigger than the centers are equipped for: According to a recent Colorado Health Institute survey, 20.9 percent of Denver County residents are uninsured, compared to 15.8 percent for the state of Colorado. “If the [health-care] gaps are one mile wide, the available safety-net clinics and services fill up one block,” says Dr. Jim Williams, Clinica Colorado’s medical director. “What we’re doing is trying to put a finger in the dike.”