Majority of Free Clinics Have Had to Turn Away Needy Patients
Shrinking staff, expensive lab tests and drugs, and declining financial support are proving to be a prescription for disaster for the nation's uninsured, the study found through interviews of staff at 300 clinics.
Making matters worse is that 89% of the facilities experienced a rise in patient visits overall, including a signification surge of repeat patients for chronic ailments. Even beyond the 56% of clinics that have been forced to reject patients, there is a widespread problem of insufficient and often shrinking resources. According to the report, up to 97% of clinics surveyed said there's enough demand for their services that they could justify boosting their operational capacity by 10% to 20% -- if they had the means to do so.
Approximately 3,800 patients logged a total of 10,000 visits at AmericCares' three clinics in Connecticut at a cost of $6 million, the company said.
A recent free clinic held at the Tacoma Dome, normally a sports stadium in Tacoma, Wash., underscores the dilemma of the uninsured. The April 30 event attracted 1,500 walk-ins -- a record for a gathering co-sponsored by the National Association of Free Clinics and Communities Are Responding Everyday (C.A.R.E.), officials said.
About 46 million Americans -- roughly 15% of the population -- don't have health insurance, according to statistics cited by the government.