SJRMC eyeing community resource center for new venture

PLYMOUTH — Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center has a plan to help people understand their health insurance situation under the federal Affordable Care Act.
President and CEO Al Gutierrez told the Pilot News Thursday that Plymouth will be the location of the first SJRMC health insurance and exchange information center.
“This will be an information center for the public,” said Gutierrez. “There are a lot of hard working people in Plymouth who don’t have health insurance. They might now qualify for Medicaid, but how will they get information about it? A lot of people have the capacity to go to a website to research it, but there are some people that are still not comfortable with websites.”
This center — which does not yet have a formal name — will provide free consultations to anyone, whether they have insurance or not. Gutierrez said that “navigators” will be on hand to assist people with figuring out their health insurance needs.
Two other similar centers will be located in Mishawaka and South Bend.
“This is part of fulfilling our mission to get people to the doctor when they need it,” noted Gutierrez. “The important thing is to educate the public on being proactive about their care. We have been working with the state and federal government on the ins and outs of this — it’s very complex from a regulatory standpoint.”
Funding for the information center has been approved by SJRMC’s board of trustees. The tentative location for the center is inside the Marshall County Community Resource Center on W. Adams St. in Plymouth. Gutierrez said that SJRMC is currently in negotiations with the CRC for the space.
“We wanted close proximity to the main street because we wanted to make sure people would have access to (the information center),” said Gutierrez.
Also possibly moving into the CRC is the Saint Joseph’s Health Center, a clinic for the uninsured that is now on Washington St. Gutierrez said that the idea is to have the clinic and the information center next to each other, so people can learn about their health insurance coverage and be seen by a physician in the same building. Also, the clinic has seen a dramatic increase in patients in the past several years and needs more space.
Gutierrez said that the opening of the information center will lead to the hiring of at least a few new employees.
“It will be a combination of existing employees and a few additional employees,” said Gutierrez.
When asked whether more employees would be hired for Saint Joseph’s Health Center, Gutierrez said the matter is “under review.”
SJRMC administration began considering creating the health insurance information center about a year ago, according to Gutierrez. It’s all part of a plan to make sure people have the health care they need, regardless of ability to pay.
He wouldn’t commit to an opening date for the health insurance information center, but said it would be sometime in the next few months.
“We are ready to go,” said Gutierrez.