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Health care law hasn't lightened free clinic's patient load
Health care reform law hasn't lightened the load of free clinics

Date published: 8/22/2010

MORE THAN 15 percent of Americans lacked health insurance in 2009, according to a survey released earlier this summer by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The survey found that 46.3 million people were uninsured last year, up a bit from the 43.8 million uninsured in 2008. Those without insurance last year included more than 6 million children.

Here in Fredericksburg, a patient I'll call Mr. A. is worried that the pain spreading from his left hand to his chest represents heart disease. Bad enough any time, but he lacks insurance because his workplace, a small shop in the city, went out of business.

Another patient, Mrs. B., has severe back pain because she fell off a ladder and was told by her back surgeon she had to quit work. So she did, but now, without insurance coverage, the only care she gets is at the free clinic.

Both were patients I saw recently at the Moss Free Clinic in Fredericksburg. Both are part of the nation's uninsured--a problem that has not gone away with health care reform. And both are illustrative of the absurd business of health insurance being tied to employment--if you get some debilitating illness or injury, when you need health care the most, then, whoops! All of a sudden you don't have it.

Both patients laughed ruefully when I asked them why they hadn't taken out their own health insurance or gone with COBRA, the government program that lets you keep your work-based coverage--for a price. They told me they were barely covering the other bills in their unemployment--forget the idea of paying health insurance premiums.

And these are not malingerers who just need to "pull themselves up by their boot-straps," as is so often implied. These are salt-of-the-earth working folks who have fallen on hard times.

STUMBLING INTO IT

I tried to retire but somehow seemed to stumble out the door of the Pratt Medical Center and into the door of the Moss Clinic--there to be anointed as part-time medical director, my new job. So indigent care is now my concern--though having been a volunteer at the Moss Clinic for the last 20 odd years, this is not entirely new.


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Fredericksburg-area residents can get medical care at the Lloyd F. Moss Free Clinic if they are uninsured and their household income is less than 125 percent of federal poverty guidelines. (For a family of four, that's a little less than $28,000 a year.) Learn more about services and how to qualify for treatment by visiting mossfreeclinic.org or by calling 540/741-1061.