Mobile Health Funding for the Homeless

H.R. 29 would allow for clinics and hospitals to apply for funding to finance mobile medical vehicles

By J.I.Valle
Published on LatinoLA: April 25, 2013

Mobile Health Funding for the Homeless

Imagine it is late in the night, and you are coughing and getting sicker by the minute. You realize that there is a need for a doctor to see you immediately. You drive up to your nearest emergency room, and walk in to see it packed with waiting people.

Among those waiting, you see that there is an individual who has his clothes with holes, missing socks and shoes, scruffy hair, and appears to have not showered due to an odor he is emitting.

You put the pieces together and realize that the person is homeless.

At first thought you feel sympathetic for him but then an uncontainable irritation takes over you when you hear that his name is called by the nurse before you to be seen. You then start to question why a homeless person is not being seen by a doctor who can not only assist him with his health, but also help him in finding resources that he can be taking advantage of.

The truth of the matter is that there is not enough funding or advocacy going towards health programs that are aimed in helping homeless individuals.

Many people do not realize that the homeless population has major health problems and yet is it nine times more likely to have no health insurance, and is five times more likely to report no regular source of health care.

In addition, Latinos are one of the many to be underrepresented among the homeless population. Just in the Los Angeles County, 26% of the homeless population is Hispanic/Latino.

Because there is such a negative stigma against the homeless, it is necessary to see past the negativity and help in doing what is right.

As an educated Latina woman, who has been given opportunities, I feel compelled to do my part to advocate and bring into awareness the issues of homelessness and their lack of access to health care. The homeless population needs more funding in programs and resources that allow for them to get health treatment.

This is why it is important for a bill such as H.R. 29 Mobile Medical Homeless Health Improvement Act of 2013 needs to be passed into law.

H.R. 29 is a bill that was recently introduced into Congress by Representative Nydia M. Velazquez. The bill would allow for clinics and hospitals to apply for funding to finance mobile medical vehicles, which could provide health care for homeless people.

If H.R. 29 were to pass it would not only benefit the Latino population but the rest of the nation. Mobile medical health care services is an innovative way in delivering Medicaid or free services to the homeless since it is difficult to get traditional health care.

Another important aspect of the bill is the ability to save money for the health care system. Homeless people have limited access to health care and because of it they are more likely to be admitted to hospitals and have increased length of hospitalization. People struggling with homelessness spend, on average, three nights per visit in the hospital, which can cost over $9,000 for an illness that could have been treated with preventative care. This results in being more costly to tax payers and the health care budget.

H.R. 29 reports that the average cost of visiting a provider of mobile medical health care services is significantly below the average cost of an emergency room.

The passing of the bill would be an attempt in ending the cycle of repetitive emergency room visits.

As a tax payer, knowing that money is being mishandled is bothersome but knowing that no measures are being taken to resolve the issue is inexcusable. There is no single solution in eliminating homelessness which is why efforts are needed to revamp the federal and state assistance programs.

Homeless people are often deprived and have few powerful advocates. That is why raising awareness is crucial for H.R. 29. The bill would allow more funding to go to mobile medical services and would help continue helping those who are unable to get health care. It is a short term solution but nonetheless it is a step towards the right direction.

Homeless people are often ignored, disrespected, and are forgotten. As citizens and as humans, it is our ethical duty to help those who are not able to help themselves.

Now it is the time to let lawmakers know that more needs to be done to address homelessness and their access to health care. They can take action in promoting H.R. 29 and influencing members of congress to sponsor it. The more people are aware of it the better the chance of the bill has at passing into law.

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About J.I.Valle:
Studying for my Master's degree in Social Work at the University of Southern California
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