The Need and History of the Council

The Increasing Need

Recent statistics indicate that approximately 44 million Americans are without medical insurance. It is estimated that approximately 350,000 residents of suburban Cook County are uninsured. Many of these people are ineligible for public health insurance programs and are unable to afford private insurance. Uninsured individuals are at a daily risk of having a medical condition affect the ability to work or attend school.

Access to Care is a primary health care program for low-income, uninsured residents of suburban Cook County and residents in Chicago that live west of Pulaski Road AND north of North Avenue. The program provides a health care "safety net." Access to Care links community-minded physicians with individuals and families in need of affordable primary health care services. The program is a partnership of the public and private sectors working together to make primary health care available to eligible individuals for small co-payments to service providers. The public/private partnership is formed from public funding and discounts given by private providers.

Patients have affordable diagnosis and treatment of illness available in a decentralized model throughout Cook County. The medically indigent are widely dispersed throughout an area with poor public transportation making it important that local care is available. There is an annual enrollment fee of $20 for one person, $40 for two people, or $50 for a family of three or more. Patients pay $5 per visit to their Access to Care doctor. Prescriptions are available for $10 (generic), $20 (preferred brand) and $30 (non-preferred brand) and laboratory and radiology tests for $5 per test or specimen drawn.

Eligibility for the Access to Care program is determined by the following criteria: 1) The family or individual lives in suburban Cook County, or west of Pulaski Road AND north of North Avenue in Chicago. 2) Family income is below 200% of the federal poverty level, 3) The family or individual does not have private health insurance or has an annual deductible of $500 or more per person and is ineligible for Medicare, Medicaid or KidCare Assist.



In 1986 The Chicago Community Trust announced its "Health Care in Cook County Initiative". Four organizations submitted proposals on ways to improve health care for medically indigent individuals. The Suburban Primary Health Care Council was born from the joint efforts of The Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, Inc., the Cook County Department of Public Health, the Northwest Suburban Cook County Health Care Task Force and the Park Forest Health Department.   A planning grant was awarded to the Council in 1987 to create a delivery system of primary health care services for uninsured individuals in suburban Cook County.

The Access to Care program launched in two demonstration areas in 1988 and 1989. The success in these areas proved the program was meeting the primary health care needs of its clients. In 1991 the program was granted funds by the Cook County Board of Commissioners to expand the program to cover all of suburban Cook County. By the end of 1992 Access to Care had served over 10,000 patients.

In 1993, the Cook County Board of Commissioners increased funding to $1.5 million for Access to Care which resulted in more patients served in 1994. In 1998 Access to Care was recognized by the State of Illinois for its help to the medically indigent with a $1 million, two-year grant to increase the number of clients served. By 2000, more than 50,000 individuals had received primary health services through Access to Care. In 2001 program participants used more services than had ever been utilized since the program's inception resulting in higher costs for the Council. It was clear that patient's needs had intensified. In 2002 the number of people served annually was reduced as it became necessary to budget for higher rates of utilization for this changing patient population.

In 2003, Access to Care implemented an annual enrollment fee for members. The Council worked diligently to keep the fee as low as possible while still meeting contractual obligations. The fees for enrollment in the program are: $20 for one person, $40 for two people and $50 for a family of three or more.

In 2004, The Cook County Board of Commissioners increased funding to $3 million for Access to Care and the State of Illinois restored funding to $1 million after a funding cut in 2003. This increased funding will allow 5,000 new clients to join the program.

In April 2005, The Access to Care program launched a demonstration program in Chicago. Clients must live in northwest Chicago, defined as west of Pulaski Road AND north of North Avenue.

The program has been the recipient of awards and official endorsements.  The Governors Hometown Award was presented to Access to Care in recognition of "outstanding achievement to make Illinois an ideal state in which to work, live and conduct business".  Endorsements have been received from the Institute of Medicine of Chicago, the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians, the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians/Northern Illinois Region.  The program also received the official support of the Chicago Medical Society.  Access to Care has been presented in the Journal of the American Medical Association and was presented to the American Public Health Association.


Access to Care®
2225 Enterprise Drive
Suite 2507
Westchester, IL 60154

(708) 531-0680
Fax: (708) 531-0686


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