For The Insured But Cash-Strapped, Free Health Clinics Still Have A Place

Denise Johnson works two jobs, but neither of them offers health insurance to part-timers like her. She signed up for a marketplace plan this year, but for routine medical care Johnson still goes to the free clinic near her home in Charlottesville, Va.

The problem is her plan’s deductible of at least $1,000. She can’t recall the precise figure, but it doesn’t really matter. “It’s absolutely high,” said Johnson, 58. “Who can afford that?” She struggles to pay her $28 monthly premium.

By continuing to visit the free clinic where she’s been a patient for a few years, Johnson said she saves hundreds of dollars a year on blood pressure and diuretic medications, her EpiPen and allergy pills. In addition to the drugs, she also sees a primary care doctor every six months at the clinic to keep tabs on her borderline diabetes. She also sees an allergist once a year.

“If you’re a working-class person and you’ve got a free clinic near you, buying a bronze plan and using the free clinic for primary care makes sense,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University.

Denise Johnson said she saves hundreds of dollars a year on prescription medicines by going to the Charlottesville Free Clinic.i

Of the 1,300 people who visited the medical clinic at the Charlottesville Free Clinic in the past year, roughly 15 percent have enrolled in insurance through the marketplace, said Colleen Keller, executive director of the clinic. The clinic, which limits services to lower-income people, provides medical, pharmacy, mental health and dental services through a combination of staff and volunteer medical professionals…

Read full story at NPR

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