Free Clinics are volunteer based health care organizations providing medical, dental, pharmaceutical or behavioral health services to the uninsured. There are approximately 1200 Free Clinics in the Unitied States. When insurance becomes mandatory for all US citizens in 2014 under the current health care reform act, what will become of these free clinics? There is money set aside under the health care reform act for the development of community health centers. And funding to hospitals is going to take a bit of a cut. Perhaps then, there will be an increase in the number of community centers being developed and these community centers will take some of the burden off the hospital emergency department which currently offers the usual frontline mode of care . Will the free clinics be turned into community health centers or their branches? This would of course entail a total change of internal structure, from not for profit to government-funded, and from volunteer to staffed. Or will there still be an uninsured population? Research suggests that there will continue to be a large number of uninsured people requiring the services of free clinics. To view a quick chart of where these uninsured people come from, click here. Or, to view a most comprehensive report, go to the original article by Matthew Buetgens and Mark Hall and download the PDF file at urban.org – click here The Charlottesville Free Clinic in Virginia is an extremely well-run, respected organization. It services the working uninsured from the surrounding region and offers specialty care, primary care, dental services and behavioral health services. Some CFC statistics for FY10 are:
- Volunteer providers treated 1,142 patients with 3201 visits to the evening clinics
- The majority of these visits (79%) were for primary care.
- 744 patients with 1,576 visits were treated by the Nurse Practitioner during the day clinics.
- Free medications were secured for 696 patients valued at $1,334,268
- 1,466 dental patients were seen with 2,838 visits to the dental clinics
- The CFC has developed a network of community healthcare providers who saw more than 500 CFC patients free of charge or for a reduced rate.
- 518 community members donated more than 13,000 hours to the CFC
- By helping reduce inappropriate ER visits and avoiding hospitalization the CFC estimates a $7.6 million savings to local hospitals.
Erika Viccellio is the Executive Director of the Charlottesville Free Clinic. Following is a short video of an interview with Erika.