Private, Charity Clinics Offer Healthcare Solution
As a follow-up to my recent post on The Shriners Hospital for Children, which provides free medical care for children, and is an example of a privately-funded, non-government, charitable solution to rising health care costs, there was an excellent commentary in Tuesday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution "Charity Clinics Can Be Reform Model," by Ross Mason, president of the board of directors of Georgia Free Clinic Network. Excerpts below:
At charity clinics throughout Georgia, patients with no health insurance or who don’t qualify for government programs jam telephone lines to obtain an appointment. If the clinic doesn’t take appointments, patients line up at the doors and wait for hours for a chance to see a doctor, nurse or dentist.
In 2008, Georgia’s 100-plus charity clinics, such as Athens’ Mercy Health Center, cared for more than 175,000 patients. This year, some clinics are seeing as much as a 300 percent increase in patients due to the state’s record unemployment rate. Still, many get turned away.
Community-based clinics use volunteers to provide care and charge little to nothing for patients who have no other means of accessing health care. Georgia’s charity clinics provide between $200 million and $400 million annually in uncompensated care, according to a 2005 state auditor’s report. That amount will likely be even greater this year because of the rising number of unemployed.
Washington politicians should recognize the important and mostly invisible role these clinics play and examine how they save taxpayer money. In 2008, the nation’s 1,200 charity clinics served 4 million patients. That’s 4 million patients, often without the ability to pay, who didn’t use the government as a source for their health care. These facts should prompt President Barack Obama to give charity clinics a seat at the table to help devise a health care strategy for the 21st century.
Until we find solutions to get more Americans covered by health insurance, the federal government needs to encourage the creation and stabilization of additional charity clinics run by the private sector and staffed by physicians, nurses and dentists who donate their time. It’s a cost-effective solution that fits into our new president’s challenge to return to a spirit of giving.
Originally posted at Carpe Diem.