More Newly Unemployed, Uninsured U.S. Residents Seek Care at Free Clinics and Community Health Centers
As the current economic recession leads to more job losses and the subsequent loss of employer-based health coverage, more U.S. residents are turning to volunteer-run health clinics and government-funded community health centers for no- or low-cost medical care, USA Today reports. However, this "safety net is being strained as demand grows and budgets shrink," USA Today reports.
According to USA Today, for every one percentage point rise in unemployment, the number of uninsured people increases by 1.1 million; the current U.S. unemployment rate is 8.5%. Tom Van Coverden, CEO of the National Association of Community Health Centers, said, "That's placing a major-league burden on health centers." Last year, the U.S.' 1,200 community health centers treated seven million uninsured patients, a 3% increase from the 6.8 million patients treated in 2007.
No-cost clinics, which rely on donations and volunteer medical staff, treat four million patients annually, according to Nicole Lamoureux, executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics.
While community health centers will receive $2 billion in federal economic stimulus funding for staffing, equipment and construction of new centers, no-cost clinics will not receive any federal funding. Instead, no-cost clinics are increasing their fundraising efforts, according to Maureen Tomoschuk, CEO of Community Volunteers in Medicine.
According to USA Today, free clinics and community health centers "treat a small portion" of uninsured U.S. residents (Bello, USA Today, 4/10).