The Need for Free Health Clinics Continues Despite Reforms

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November 16, 2015; Richmond Times-Dispatch

In case people think that the hobbled and stumbling Affordable Care Act has solved the nation’s problems of health insurance coverage, it obviously hasn’t. Due to the unwillingness of a number of states to expand Medicaid eligibility, the federal government’s stiff-arm treatment of nonprofit health insurance cooperatives, and a general unwillingness to play tough with the big insurers, while the number of Americans with health insurance coverage has increased immensely, many people still find themselves underinsured and unable to afford the healthcare treatment they need.

As a result, the need for free health clinics continues, as in Warsaw, Virginia, where a free clinic sponsored by the Tennessee-based Remote Area Medical corps was held last week, hosted by Rappahannock Community College. The RAM doctors and nurses came from around the country, some as far away as Minnesota.

Like Southwestern Virginia’s Wise County where RAM has held a free clinic for 16 years, Warsaw is a rural community where we suspect the issues are not just insurance coverage, but access to health care providers. RAM clinic and operations coordinator Kimberly Schwaner explained that most of the patients attending the clinic are the working poor. She explained to Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Rex Springston that the need for a free clinic “does say something about our health care system,” but what the solution should be to improve health care coverage for the patients attending the clinic in Warsaw isn’t exactly clear.

If you might doubt the needs that the RAM free clinics are serving, think again. Schwaner said that people show up sometimes three days early for the clinics in Wise. For Warsaw, where the clinic was held on a Saturday and Sunday, some 150 prospective patients were waiting in line at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning, and 70 more were lined up early on Sunday morning.

Even with health insurance, part of the problem is that the U.S. system, between premiums and co-pays, healthcare treatment is just not easily accessible and frequently too expensive, according to RAM founder Stan Brock. The Affordable Care Act has been a great advance over what preceded it, but there is so much more to do to create a truly accessible, affordable health care system in the wealthiest country in the world—Rick Cohen

  • Ardie Andrews

    Rick, you should have been there! This past weekend the California Care Force and all of its dedicated volunteers, both professionals and general, served 500 patients in Grass Valley, CA. Many of those patients lined up to register at 3:30 in the morning for Vision, Dental and Medical care they so desperately needed. It was an amazing, life changing experience for all of us to see so many folks receive the care they needed. It’s not the lack of only medical care via insurance but Dental and Vision care that is almost never offered at all, for many, many in dire need. No patient was charged a dime! Thanks for your article.