Greater Milwaukee Free Clinic has never found it easy finding funds to run the clinic and this year seems very tough due to the expansion of health coverage.
In Milwaukee area this is among one among 12 clinics and $65,000 is their annual budget, this year they were short by $18,000. This may be due to the Affordable Care Act. "No one really knows," said Kathy Schneider, who started the clinic with George Schneider, her husband and a physician, in 1995. A large number of people will remain uninsured this year. Some will not bother to sign up for coverage. And illegal immigrants are not eligible for coverage under the law.
Advertisement"We are looking at 2014 as a transitional year," said Tom Jackson, a volunteer doctor at the Bread of Healing Clinic. Free clinics are run by volunteer physicians, nurses and others who work in health care are an integral part for people without health insurance. Last year, the Greater Milwaukee Free Clinic, one of the first free clinics in the Milwaukee area, provided care to about 1,500 people. It diagnosed breast cancer in five women. Another patient was diagnosed with throat cancer. And numerous patients were diagnosed with untreated chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. The clinic, which is open on Tuesday and Thursday nights, has never had its budget at the start of the year, Kathy Schneider said. "This isn't new for us," she said.
The Greater Milwaukee Free Clinic relies on contributions from from the church, civic organizations and individuals. Many physicians also give financial support along with services. Aurora Health Care provides in-kind donations for lab tests and radiology. "They have been there the entire time for us and for our patients," Schneider said. The clinic can manage with the funds they have for the next few months. Some other free clinics, such as the Lake Area Free Clinic in Oconomowoc, also are unsure how the Affordable Care Act will affect the demand for their services.
"We don't know what is going to happen," said Peter Geiss, the clinic's medical director. The clinic supports the Affordable Care Act, Geiss said, and has brought in an insurance broker to help enroll people. But he added, "We still feel there is going to be a huge need for our services." One disadvantage of the expansion in coverage is some patients who get care at free clinics, such as Bread of Healing, want to see their doctors and staff at their clinics. "That is an issue," Jackson said. "But in the big picture, we believe that having insurance is much more preferable than being uninsured." The clinic is helping people sign up for coverage. But how many people eventually get insurance through the law is a question. "We'll know a lot more in six months," Jackson said.
Guy Boulton, January 2014
Hannah Punitha (IRDA Licence Number: 2710062)
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