With increasing unemployment comes acorresponding rise in the number of uninsuredAmericans with limited healthcare access. It isestimated that for every one percentageincrease in the national unemployment rate,1.1 million more Americans will becomeuninsured and join the ranks of the 46 millionAmericans already without health coverage.
Research shows that uninsured adults andchildren are less likely to receive preventivecare. Such lack of preventive care will almostcertainly translate into worse health outcomesfor individuals and higher costs to society.A particularly troubling health-related impactis the growing number of people unable tomeet their basic nutrition needs. In March2009, the USDA confirmed that participationin the Supplemental Nutrition AssistanceProgram (SNAP) (i.e., food stamps) hadreached a historical high: in December 2008,about 32 million Americans received SNAPbenefits, 4.5 million more than in Dec. 2007. InDecember 2008 alone, recipients of SNAPbenefits increased by 700,000 people.
Foodbanks are also seeing an increase in demand. Ina survey of its members in late 2008 by FeedingAmerica (a national network of food banks),almost all member food banks (99%) reportedseeing more first-time users and wereexperiencing growth in demand between 28%and 37%. Nearly three quarters of these foodbanks (72%) also reported not being able tomeet the need adequately with the resourcesavailable to them.
In our preliminary conversations with funders,policy analysts, researchers, and nonprofitleaders, several examples have already emergedwhere philanthropists are filling the gaps notcovered by government programs or funding.For example:
Helping those left out
. While new initiativesin the stimulus plan expand Medicaid coveragefor the poor and help offset the costs of continuing health coverage (COBRA) after lay-offs, many Americans still do not qualify forthese benefits. Located in high-needcommunities and governed by community boards, community health centers that servethe poor and uninsured are able to providecomprehensive, primary care services tailoredto local needs. A 2008 estimate of community health center programs’ impact on localeconomies found that for every $1 millioninvested in health centers, a $6 million rate of return can be expected, while providingneeded care for an additional 8,400 patients.
Philanthropists can support local community health centers to meet the growing demandsfor basic health services.
Covering the “last mile”
The federalgovernment’s plan to prevent foreclosuresincludes incentives for lenders to cut mortgagepayments for at-risk borrowers.
However, suchincentives will have little impact if borrowersare unaware of these options, or fall prey toillegitimate offers of refinancing. In fact, someestimate that more than half of those (someestimates reach as high as 80%) who have losttheir homes never contacted their lenders,
even though housing counselors trained tofacilitate a fair restructuring for the borrowerare available at no charge. Philanthropists cansupport “door knock” programs that sendrepresentatives of legitimate nonprofits to thedoors of homes at risk of foreclosure. For aslittle as $25 per household, these representativescan explain these options and help homeownersarrange meetings with housing counselors. Suchprograms cover that needed “last mile” of service delivery necessary for the success of federal intervention.