How We Care: Non-Profit Health Care (Update 2)

The non-profit health care system in the United States has grown to fit increasing demand.  According to the Commonwealth Fund, nearly four million people have lost their insurance coverage in the past two years.  This brings the total percentage of uninsured Americans up to 15.5%.  This is the biggest increase in the population of uninsured patients in the past 20 years, and while insurance rates are higher now than they were in the 90s, the rapid change is disturbing.

To tackle this problem, foundations like the Alliance for Advocating Non Profit Health Care (f. 2003) and the We Care Network (f. 1992) work to increase access to medical care regardless of socioeconomic status or insurance status.  Clinics that provide donated medical service, such as the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFC) (f. 2001), staff physicians, dentists, and psychologists who donate time and medical attention to patients who are otherwise unable to afford care.  Like the We Care Network in Tallahassee, NAFC covers or reduces the costs of medications and doctors visits for patients who qualify for the program.  Clinics like this are found all over the country, and give hope to patients who need access to quality specialized medical care.

Very few studies have been conducted to examine free clinics.  One, a 2010 study,  reported 1007 free clinics in 49 states and Washington D.C., serving over 1.8 million people.  The patient race demographics were 50.1% White, 25.1% Latinx, 21.2% Black or African American, 3.1% Asian, 0.7% American Indian or Alaskan Native, and 0.3% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (these demographics suggest an above-average patient population of Latinx and Black or African American populations).  96.8% of patients were within 200% of the Federal Poverty Threshold, 41.9% were homeless, and 39.3% were immigrants.  Since general health is associated with socioeconomic status, it is vitally important to provide low-income populations with access to health care at affordable rates.

Beyond that, non-profit clinics are an integral part of communities, as they reduce strain on hospitals and promote general health among local populations.  In 2013, Becker’s Hospital Review published an analysis of the benefits of free clinics within medical communities, which is linked here.  Overall, the work that free clinics and non-profit health care networks do is necessary and honorable.  It serves to care for those who have fallen through the cracks of the health care system, and promote overall health in communities.


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