Tulsa Clinic Decides To Accept New Uninsured Patients

Wednesday, April 1st 2015, 1:51 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Tulsa's Morton Healthcare is once again taking new patients who cannot pay. The clinics' board had decided it couldn't afford to treat them, now they've decided they can't afford not to.

Morton's outreach to people who can't pay full price, and sometimes can't pay anything, will continue - but that decision leaves the clinic chronically short of money.

Morton Comprehensive Health Services has a lot going for it - a good location, a solid history, and plenty of patients.

Some of those patients have insurance, like James Parker, who just came out of the dental chair.

"I had a tooth extracted; they were very courteous, clean, kind, and painless," he said.

But, like so many other health care providers, Morton has a lot of patients who cannot pay - about 55 percent of their clients, according to CEO James Silva.

"These are the people who are the least healthy and the most in need of health care access," Silva said.

Back in January, Morton made a decision to stop taking new patients without insurance in hopes it would improve the bottom line.

The problem is that left patients without a place to go.

Dental Director, Calysta Harris-Beatty said, "Probably the biggest need we get are people in severe pain, and that's usually because they put off their dental needs for so long because they didn't have a place to go."

Situations like that forced Morton to change again, and decide to take in all patients, regardless of insurance; that means the clinic could lose more than $1 million a year.

"We made a decision, the board made a decision, that our mission was to serve those most in need of access, and we're trying to tough it out," Silva said.

He said Morton has cut staff and hours and reached out to philanthropies, but the combination of state cuts and increasing costs of care still leaves Morton in the impossible situation of being unable to treat everyone who needs it and unwilling to turn them away.

According to Morton, three-fourths of all the patients who can't pay also don't qualify for federal insurance because they're too poor; one of the ironies of the state's position on not accepting more Medicaid dollars from the feds.