The number of uninsured has grown to approximately 50 million. Some of the uninsured are working two or three jobs, many are self-employed and that doesn’t leave them much time to become active in politics. Who ever heard of an altruistic politician? Not I. Consequently, what is the likelihood of a Congressman helping the uninsured, when there is no gain or benefit for him? They are easily lured by large insurance companies bending over backwards to line their pockets, send them on extravagant junkets, and help them get re-elected. Not much of a fair competition, since we can’t clone Dennis Kucinich. Meanwhile, free clinics are doing the best they can to fill the medical void.
The clinic provides free medical and dental services and medicine for the working poor – people who have no insurance but earn too much to qualify for federal or state programs.
More Americans losing their jobs and health insurance are turning to volunteer-run free clinics and government-funded community health centers for free or low-cost medical care. The safety net is being strained as demand grows and budgets shrink.
For every 1 percentage point rise in unemployment, the number of uninsured people increases by 1.1 million, according to Families USA, a health-reform advocacy group. The U.S. unemployment rate is 8.5%.
Community health centers are funded by states and the federal government and provide services to the poor, regardless of insurance. Patients receive free services or pay on a sliding scale based on their income.
In 2008, the country’s 1,200 community health centers treated 7 million uninsured patients, up 3% from 6.8 million in 2007. Van Coverden says the recession is likely to drive the number of uninsured up by 30%.
Free clinics are charity organizations that provide services to people who can’t afford insurance or don’t qualify for government health programs. They rely on donations and volunteer medical staff to care for 4 million patients a year, says Nicole Lamoureux, executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics.
Ohio’s 40 free clinics treated 56,000 uninsured patients in 2008, up from 43,000 in 2007. Marjorie Frazier, executive director of the Ohio Association of Free Clinics, expects the number to increase in 2009. In January, one clinic in Cleveland closed because it lacked funding. Ohio, one of the few states that helps pay for free clinics’ operations, is cutting funding. Its two-year allocation for 2008 and 2009 was $2.1 million; for 2010 and 2011, proposed funding is $1.5 million.
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