Clinics are still needed, and still in need of support

Recently, a Free Clinic in Arkansas reported that it was closing its doors because the majority of its patients were able to get care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

While this is very exciting news for this community, this one clinic closing by no means uncovers a nationwide trend of closures of Free and Charitable Clinics due to the Affordable Care Act.  Frankly, our clinics are reporting the opposite!  Over the last two years, they have seen a 40-50 percent increase in patient demand while seeing a 20 percent decrease in donations.

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A very large misconception about the Affordable Care Act is that everyone will have insurance or access to health care and that our clinics will no longer be needed. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The ACA is not and was never intended to be a universal health care system, meaning not everyone in our country is going to get care. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, there may be as many as 29-30 million people left without access to affordable health care even after the Affordable Care Act and the promise of expanded access.

Given these realities, Free and Charitable Clinics will remain an important part of the national health care safety net. In those communities where patients are getting access to health insurance, either through a private insurer or through expanded Medicaid, we will celebrate that small victory, while recognizing that many other clinics in the country will continue to stand in the gap of our current and future health care system.  

In the upcoming months and years, doctors, hospitals, navigators, states, clinics and patients will be addressing the needs of the underserved with respect to affordability, portability and accessibility of health care.

To say soon after the enrollment period for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act has concluded that there is a nationwide trend of Free and Charitable Clinic closures is not just unfair; it is unfathomable and simply put – not true.

For every story of a clinic closing, we are hearing even more stories of clinics that are increasing their hours and services in both states that have expanded Medicaid and those who have not. 

Our clinics will remain “Open for Business” to help the millions left behind and we will continue to work with our volunteers, donors and communities throughout the nation to Build A Healthy America, One Patient At A Time.

Lamoureux is executive director of the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics.