August 5, 2010; Source: Washington Post | Why do we continue to get the sickly—sorry for the pun—feeling that national health insurance reform isn’t going to mean the end of the need for free clinics? In the shadow of the White House, 2,000 people showed up for Washington D.C.’s first large scale free health clinic. The event was organized by the nonprofit National Association of Free Clinics.

Expectations were that because D.C. has one of the nation’s highest rates of health coverage, perhaps due to all the government workers there, this clinic might not be all that busy. To the contrary, there was a huge turnout, with volunteer doctors and nurses scrambling to keep up with the inflow of patients. The clinic cost $300,000 to put on, with money contributed by 44,000 donors.

Why the sense of continuing need? For starters, there are plenty of people who need health care reform, not just health insurance reform, and health care is still subject to lots of rules and decisions that don’t necessarily serve people in need. Then of course there’s the problem of people who still aren’t covered, who work part-time, who may be undocumented (or even documented) immigrants, or who can’t afford the cost of treatment and pharmaceutical co-pays.

And the suspicion here is that opponents of health insurance reform are going to litigate in pieces—picking off this piece and picking off that one—so that they chip away pretty thoroughly at the edifice until, they hope, it crumbles. Thank goodness for the nonprofit free health clinics and the 44,000 small donors who made one happen a mile or so away from Capitol Hill.—Rick Cohen