All Americans regardless of their economic standing in the community deserve access to essential and quality preventative, and primary healthcare. Those Americans who currently fall under the “publicly insured” category (Medicaid), and the medically uninsured, are at similar risk for delayed or non-existent required medical care. Establishing a free, 24 hour accessible Shelby County Primary Care Clinic would eliminate patient medical care delay, and result in large scale overall savings in projected annual medical care costs. (So You Want to Start a Health Center?, 2011) The advantage of free and charitable medical clinics vs. federally funded medical clinics reaches beyond the access to quality care component. Free and charitable clinics are at a financial advantage typically, due to many varying factors. Federally funded clinics fall under the financial responsibility of Federal Government grants, Medicare, state government/Medicaid reimbursement, insurance payers, self-pay, public and private gifts and grants. Free and charitable clinics are financially supported by grants and donations, exclusively.
Volunteers provide most if not all primary care, specialty care, dental care and vision care which eliminates a direct savings of 1.28 million for future healthcare costs. (Comparison of Free & Charitable Clinics to Federally Funded Clinics, n.d.) The Shelby County community has a longstanding history of community members that struggle to afford basic primary healthcare. Majority of those who reside in this area work non-union, blue-collar jobs that do not provide “sick” time or the ability to take time off to meet medical needs. Oftentimes, a community member will make just above the poverty level each month to ensure they do not qualify for Medicaid/Medicare, but not enough to afford the standard monthly costs of medical insurance. Medical issues that could easily be resolved with one or two primary care appointments, end up becoming a medical emergency often times of high expense. The establishment of a 24 hour accessible free medical clinic in the Shelby County community, physically accessible to all, would provide the necessary gap-fill for those who aren’t Medicaid/Medicare applicable. (Why Free Medical Clinics Benefit Everyone, n.d.)
Many prepatory considerations must be made in order to ensure the successful establishment and functioning of any free medical clinic. Support of local area hospitals is essential, in order to provide the ancillary services needed such as lab work, radiology/x-rays, and medical providers willing to volunteer both for services provided, and to be members of the respective clinic Board. An acceptable and effective business and strategic plan must be developed and in place prior to the establishment of any free medical clinic. Volunteer staff need to be abreast of all HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations, and the process of credentialing providers, in order to fall under the established medical legal guidelines. A Standard of Clinic Operating Procedures must be created and in place, prior to any clinic operations actually occurring, so all volunteers are educated in the many facets of their job responsibilities and clinic procedures. (OhioFreeClinics.org, n.d.) (So You Want to Start a Health Center?, 2011)
The result of providing free medical care for those in need is not simply an improved medical and physical state, however important this factor is. The result of preventative care that comes from regular primary care appointments, can eliminate the crowding of emergency rooms for primary care issues such as blood pressure, common colds, asthma (non- emergent) and diabetes (maintenance). When “standard” primary care issues are managed with education, medication and follow up, patients are stable to live and work without issue. Patients who can afford care are not charged increased amounts to cover for the loss of those who need care, and cannot pay. Businesses avoid losing millions of dollars a year that typically result from productivity loss, due to illness and medical emergency. (Why Free Medical Clinics Benefit Everyone, n.d.) (Kiesel, 2013)
Shelby County would not only benefit financially with the implementation of a free medical clinic, but the overall quality of life for those who reside in this county would improve exponentially. Families will no longer have to panic when a child becomes sick or injured, and does not qualify for Medicaid/Medicare. Businesses do not lose valuable man-hours due to illnesses not treated and managed, resulting in time off work. Pregnant mothers have access to medical care and choices outside of the Medicaid/Medicare system. The positive results coming from this potential endeavor are not just immediate or financial, but continue and expand over time, in the improvement of life in Shelby County as a whole. (Why Free Medical Clinics Benefit Everyone, n.d.)
Comparison of Free & Charitable Clinics to Federally Funded Clinics. (n.d.). Retrieved from NAFC: http://nafcclinics.org/sites/default/files/Comparison%20of%20Free%20clinics%20to%20FQHS%202012.pdf Kiesel, L. (2013, December 26). Free Medical Clinics Might Save Millions. Retrieved from The Street: http://www.thestreet.com/story/12176795/1/free-medical-clinics-might-save-millions.html OhioFreeClinics.org. (n.d.). Retrieved from Starting a Free Clinic/A Volunteers in Health Care Guide: http://www.ohiofreeclinics.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/VIHStartingFreeClinic.pdf So You Want to Start a Health Center? (2011, July). Retrieved from NACH: http://www.nachc.com/client/documents/So%20you%20want%20to%20Start-Final%20July%202011.pdf Understanding Health Information Privacy. (n.d.). Retrieved from HHS.gov: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/ Why Free Medical Clinics Benefit Everyone. (n.d.). Retrieved from Friendship Medical Clinic: http://www.friendshipmedicalclinic.org/about/benefit.html
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