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As More Americans Lose Access to Affordable Healthcare, AmeriCares Expands Efforts to Meet the Rising Needs of Free Clinics

  • July 19, 2011

New Study Reveals that Many Free Clinics Forced to Turn Away Patients

The plight of uninsured and underinsured Americans rapidly grows worse as the number of people who can’t afford medical care has reached historic highs, resulting in a sharp rise in need for services from “safety net” clinics. An AmeriCares survey of 332 free clinics reveals that many are so overextended that they’ve had to turn people away.AmeriCares is responding to this alarming trend by expanding our U.S. Medical Assistance Program along with providing more clinics with greater quantities of needed medicines.

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The survey, entitled “Addressing Resource Gaps in the U.S. Health Care Safety Net: An Assessment of the Free Clinic Network,” found that 89 percent of the nation’s free clinics reported a steady rise in patient visits within the past three years, and that increased demand and resource constraints have forced 56 percent of these clinics to turn away eligible patients.  The study, funded by a grant from the GE Foundation, reports that clinics are overwhelmed not only by the increase in patients seeking health care, but also by the increased number of visits per patient due to chronic conditions requiring return visits.Recent U.S. Census statistics show that about 51 million people in the United States — 17 percent of the population — are uninsured, and another 25 million are underinsured, meaning they lack sufficient medical coverage. For people in these situations needing medical care, free clinics are a vital lifeline.“Each clinic brings to its community much-needed health care services and dedicated staff and volunteers who work diligently to address a daunting number of challenges,” said Tammy Allen, who authored the study as Project Director for AmeriCares U.S. Medical Assistance Program. “Without adequate resources, free clinics are unlikely to keep pace with the widening expanse of patient demand.”

AmeriCares, a key source of medical supplies and support for free clinics in the USA, has published the first nationwide study of free clinic resource needs at a time where a sharp rise in patient load has overburdened these resource-strapped facilities.

Photo by Matthew McDermottAmeriCares delivers ongoing medical assistance to the nation’s free clinics, nonprofit pharmacies and community health centers that serve the poor and uninsured. In 2010, AmeriCares delivered nearly $24 million in aid to U.S. health care partners and also provided $215 million in free prescription medications through the AmeriCares Patient Assistance Program. In addition, AmeriCares Free Clinics offer outpatient medical services to underserved patients in Connecticut. Last year, AmeriCares three clinics provided nearly 10,000 visits for 3,800 patients for a total value of $6 million in health care services and aid.Donate Now