access to care | St. Louis Public Radio

access to care

Amanda Moller prepares her formula in her home in University City. The formula is vital to treat a rare condition, but her insurer doesn't cover it.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Every day, Amanda Moller scoops powdered formula out of a can and shakes it up with water from her kitchen sink. It's like mixing a cocktail, she said, "but not that much fun."

The formula doesn’t taste great – like watery pudding with a biting, cheesy aftertaste. But it’s something Amanda needs to treat a rare metabolic condition she’s had since she was born. After 30 years, she’s gotten used to it.

Amanda’s employer-based insurance plan (through her husband’s employer) doesn’t cover it. Like many treatments for rare diseases, the lack of well-funded research and the tendency of insurers to focus on the bottom line mean sometimes patients can’t afford necessary medical supplies. Many of the 16,000 people in the United States who need the formula spend close to $1,000 a month to buy it.

Physician Sonny Saggar, left, nurse practitioner Michael Zappulla discuss the day's plans at North City Urgent Care, one of two urgent care clinics in north St. Louis.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

One of the only urgent-care centers on St. Louis’ medically underserved north side is in danger of closing if it doesn’t receive more patients.

North City Urgent Care opened five years ago near North Skinker Parkway and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. Since then, the center hasn’t posted a profit, owner Sonny Saggar said.

Although there are only two urgent-care clinics in north St. Louis, patient volume is low, Saggar said. On a typical day, there is only a handful of patients — far fewer than the 25 patients a day needed to turn a profit, he said.

“It’s a double-edged sword to have no competition on the north side but also limited awareness,” Saggar said. “I don’t think it’s because there’s not enough people; I think it’s because they’re not aware.”

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis health officials want to add addiction treatment to the region’s health program for low-income people without insurance.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has asked the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to add anti-addiction drugs and services to the Gateway to Better Health program.

Michael Guthrie signs up for an appointment at the mobile health clinic.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday it’s giving nearly $3 million to 29 community health centers in Missouri. The money is awarded based on how effectively and efficiently the centers provide services to their patients.

Federally qualified community health centers are one part of the government-supported health safety net for low-income individuals in medically underserved areas. The federal government requires them to offer services on a sliding pay scale and serve people regardless of whether they have insurance or not.

Former Homer G. Phillips physician Earle U. Robinson Jr. and his daughter, Rebecca Robinson-Williiams worked together to create a documentary about Robinson's time at the historic black-run hospital in the Ville.
Doug Jaggers | WFYI News

In the mid-20th century, St. Louis was home to one of the only hospitals where African-Americans could train as doctors. In segregated St. Louis, Homer G. Phillips Hospital was built to cater to the city’s black population, which was barred from the city’s white hospitals.

“This is a hospital that was all black. From the very lowest job to the medical director,” said Earle U. Robinson Jr., an OB-GYN who completed his internship and residency at the hospital from 1958 to 1963. “Since the hospitals in St. Louis were segregated, Homer G. Phillips was built for the black population.”

Stephanie Schuermann, center, sets up a future appointment at the People’s Health Centers mobile clinic at the Forest Park-Debaliviere metro stop.  June 5, 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A mobile health unit will be making weekly stops at select Metro Transit stations to provide screenings, insurance help and other health care needs.

The People’s Health Centers, a community health clinic, operates the van, which made its first stop on Tuesday. It’s scheduled to rotate between Grand, Forest Park-Debaliviere, Civic Center and Riverview Transit stations. The city health department and Metro Transit will provide assistance to help operate and staff it.