The Washington Free Clinic Association
According to their website, the Washington Free Clinic Association is “a private, non-profit 501c3 tax exempt organization whose mission is to strengthen and support the Free Clinics of Washington through advocacy, education, and professional networking.”
The Washington Free Clinic Association: What is a free clinic?
A free clinic is a medical facility that offers community healthcare on a free or very low cost basis. Usually the cost of care, if there is one, is offered on a sliding scale based on income. These clinics exist to serve the uninsured or the underinsured, including people who are not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid programs. Almost all free clinics provide case for acute, non-emergent conditions. Many also provide a full range of primary care (including preventative care) and care for chronic conditions. Some free clinics include dental care and pharmacies. If a patient needs specialist services, these free clinics are often able to offer vouchers for care with participating physicians. These free clinics are able to offer care through the use of volunteer health professionals, community volunteers, and partnerships with other health care providers.
The Washington Free Clinic Association: What us the WFCA?
The Washington Free Clinic Association comprises 24 free clinic members from across Washington State. Basically, the organization works to allow free clinics in Washington operate at the highest level of care. One of the tasks of the Washington Free Clinic Association is to survey the free clinics of Washington every year.
One part of the survey is designed to illuminate how patience can access care at free clinics and what barriers to treatment may exist. In the most recent survey, The Washington Free Clinic Association found that most free clinics can offer care within 24 hours. However, some free clinics still have to turn away a lot of patients, especially the ones who offer dental care.
The Washington Free Clinic Association: Why is it important?
In the United States, millions of people are uninsured and underinsured and thus don’t have access to healthcare. Unfortunately, those without insurance are often asked to pay the highest bills for care. This is because health facilities enter into an agreement with health insurance companies. They agree to keep prices at a certain level for those with health insurance. However, people without health insurance do not get the same price protection, and “full price” medical services can be extreme. In fact, illness and medical debt is a factor in more than 60 percent of personal bankruptcies. Full charges keep rising because hospitals have to try to make up for charity care, debts they can’t collect, and inadequate reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid. The Washington Free Clinic Association and the free clinics it encompasses aims to help combat the problem of uninsured Americans by offering free care to those who can’t afford it. Unfortunately, even nonprofit organizations like this cannot keep up with the demand for affordable healthcare, so there is still the larger problem to deal with.