Health care rights group protests at new Carle, Christie clinics facilities in Urbana

Health care rights group protests at new Carle, Christie clinics facilities in Urbana

URBANA – Champaign County Health Care Consumers doesn't think much of the new buildings Carle Clinic and Christie Clinic built in southeast Urbana.

Not that they're not nice buildings, the organization said.

"But unfortunately, beautiful new facilities don't signal new access," said Cynthia McDonnell, a volunteer with the patient-rights organization.

On Monday, she and other Health Care Consumers volunteers stood outside the two new satellite clinics standing side-by-side on Windsor Road and issued poor report cards to both Carle and Christie for how they meet the medical needs of the uninsured, the needy and those with medical debt.

Health Care Consumers also gave the two clinics, which combined employ most of the doctors in the area, poor marks for their credit and debt-collection practices, how they collaborate with other providers, their failure to disclose their policies on accepting Medicaid and uninsured patients and their refusal to disclose which of their doctors take Medicaid patients, she said.

Carle Clinic spokeswoman Jennifer Hendricks said the Health Care Consumers report card contains inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims, among them in the area of providing care for patients on Medicaid. Carle Clinic currently serves 34,500 patients on the state Medicaid health care program for low-income patients, she said.

Christie Clinic did not respond to a request for comment.

Carle got a slightly worse report card than Christie, with Christie getting better marks for accepting more forms of health insurance and for convenience. A major factor behind the convenience grade, according to Health Care consumers, is the major relocation of doctors involved in the opening of Carle Clinic's two new satellite clinics in southwest Champaign and southeast Urbana and the fact that Carle's new Champaign clinic isn't on a bus line. Christie Clinic's new southeast Urbana clinic has just one doctor and another on the way, and buses will serve that part of Urbana.

Health Care Consumers also criticized Carle Clinic for what it called "dumping" uninsured patients or those with medical debt on the doctors of Provena Medical Group. The organization also accused both clinics of forcing patients to take loans or use credit cards to pay overdue clinic bills.

Health Care Consumers Executive Director Claudia Lennhoff said there's no reason for Carle to dump patients on the much smaller Provena Medical Group – a medical practice her organization said is doing more than its share of taking care of needy patients – especially when there are more than enough doctors in the community to provide care for everyone who needs it.

Hendricks said Carle Clinic is proud of its record for serving the community.

"Access to health care is a nationwide problem, and while no individual physician group can solve it, Carle Clinic remains committed to addressing the issue," she said in an e-mailed response. "Our two new facilities in Champaign County will allow Carle Clinic to continue our efforts to recruit additional physicians to meet the need."

Hendricks also said Carle Clinic invited Health Care Consumers to take part in a "constructive solution-focused dialogue" two weeks ago, and hasn't received a response.