The Alignment Covenant

Free Clinics: Integral to Healthcare

The False Decline of Charitable Clinics
Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, colloquially referred to as Obama Care by the public, the wide-sweeping assumption made is that insurance woes throughout the United States have been largely resolved. As such, funding for nonprofit health organizations has dwindled in the shadow of the perception that free clinics are no longer a necessary commodity within the healthcare system. By the end of 2014, nearly a dozen of these 1,200 clinics had terminated business, allegedly as a result of the many Americans who were gaining access to health insurance. These closings, however, are notably concentrated in states that opted for expanding Medicaid, a move that extends coverage to citizens who cannot afford private insurance. But what about Americans in the sixteen states that did not choose to expand Medicaid?

Where the ACA Falls Short
These Americans fall into a vast chasm of a coverage gap, in which they do not makeenough money for financial assistance from the government, but they make too muchmoney to qualify for the unaltered Medicaid limit. This leaves close to thirty million Americans faced with no means of affording quality healthcare, and these individuals are very much in need of the services offered by nonprofit clinics. An overwhelming majority of this demographic comes from working families, and even patients who do have insurance often seek the help of free clinics when medications are too expensive or dental health is not covered. While the ACA broadens the healthcare horizons for those previously denied coverage based on pre-existing illnesses, it certainly does not provide an end-all solution to financial struggles within the healthcare system.

Quite contrary to what many believe, a great number of clinics report an increase in demand for their services, following the enactment of Obama Care. As of 2014, charitable clinics were already assisting over five million Americans annually; with public donations taking a nose dive, clinics are struggling to accommodate. In the same timespan that donations have decreased by twenty percent, the demand for services has escalated by forty. Remaining clinics are scrambling to work with the tweaks introduced to the healthcare world, by accepting Medicaid in their offices and offering services most often not covered by private insurance companies, such as those necessary for mental health needs. As more clinics are forced to discontinue their services, more uninsured Americans are charged with the trying task of seeking out affordable alternatives. In many cases, it may be months before they are able to find a viable means of obtaining medications or receiving professional medical attention.

Why Count Free Clinics Out?
Millennials, balancing post-secondary education and budding careers, still struggle to afford health insurance; those who are homeless, working strenuously to get back onto their feet, struggle; even established adults with families and worldly finesse struggle to have their medical needs met. Free health clinics have not ceased to be integrally important. If anything, their presence is more crucial than ever, for those who have fallen unfairly into the canyon left by the Affordable Care Act’s shortcomings. Certainly, America is progressing toward an era in which healthcare will become more and more readily accessible. But free health services should be made an avid part of that goal, as thousands of volunteering physicians would concur. Donations and charity, while seeming to become less necessary on the surface, are still as relevant as ever to improving the well-being of our society.

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