CHARITY CLINIC MODEL SHOULD BE PART OF HEALTH REFORM
July 20, 2009
The federal government needs to recognize the savings to taxpayers resulting from the important and mostly invisible role that charity clinics play in the American health care delivery system, says Ross Mason, president of the board of directors of the Georgia Free Clinic Network and a Senior Fellow with the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.
- In 2008, the nation's 1,200 charity clinics served 4 million patients.
- That's 4 million patients, often without the ability to pay, who didn't use government programs for their health care.
These facts should prompt President Obama to give charity clinics a seat at the table to help devise a health care strategy for the 21st Century, says Mason.
At charity clinics throughout Georgia, patients with no health insurance or who don't qualify for government programs jam telephone lines to obtain an appointment. If the clinic doesn't take appointments, patients line up at the doors and wait for hours for a chance to see a doctor, nurse or dentist. Consider:
- In 2008, Georgia's 100-plus charity clinics cared for more than 175,000 patients.
- This year, some clinics are seeing as much as a 300 percent increase in patients due to the state's record unemployment rate. Still, many get turned away.
- Georgia's charity clinics provide between $200 million and $400 million annually in uncompensated care, according to a 2005 state auditor's report.
- That amount will likely be even greater this year because of the rising number of unemployed.
Community-based clinics use volunteers to provide care and charge little to nothing for patients who have no other means of accessing health care, says Mason.
There are many other reasons to support the role of charity clinics, says Mason:
- The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) last month reported that 36 million Americans would still remain uninsured even if the Senate's $1.6 trillion health care proposal passed; charitable clinics will take care of many of the remaining uninsured patients.
- According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, the uninsured receive almost $1,500 in health care annually, much of which is delivered at charity clinics.
- Clinics focus on delivering care without getting entangled in government bureaucracy; charity clinics are sponsored by the private sector, such as churches, medical societies, civic organizations and other community groups.
Source: Ross Mason, "Charity Clinic Model Should Be Part of Health Reform," Gwinnett Gazette, July 17, 2009.
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