By Molly Miller
Of all the innovative methods for improving access to care in urban areas, the one that provides the most bang for your buck is undoubtedly the pop-up clinic. These pop-up clinics rely on volunteer clinicians to provide care, ranging from preventive screenings to condition-specific treatment, to a high volume of patients in a short time-span for little-to-no cost.
At this point, you might be asking, “Why do we need free clinics if we have the Affordable Care Act?” The answer might surprise you.
As of 2014, 4 million Americans fall in what is known as “the health care coverage gap,” which mainly affects individuals in states that have opted not to expand Medicaid coverage. In those states, individuals who fall between the 44 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, or FPL, cut-off for Medicaid eligibility and the 100 percent FPL cut-off for marketplace subsidies are at risk for falling into the gap and remaining uninsured, thus limiting their access to health care services.
Organizations like the National Association for Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFC) work to rectify this issue by providing free care to the uninsured at pop-up clinics across the country, known as Communities Are Responding Everyday (C.A.R.E.) Clinics. Since 2009, NAFC has hosted 15 free clinics in various locations across the United States, providing health care to over 17,500 uninsured Americans.
Remote Area Medical (RAM) also works to provide free health care to needy individuals by hosting mobile pop-up clinic events crisscrossing the county from Lee County, Virginia to Las Vegas, Nevada. In additional to free medical care, RAM clinics also provide dental, vision, preventive care, health education, and veterinarian services for individuals who cannot provide health care for their pets.
While pop-up clinics seek to meet some of the immediate health care needs of patients and connect those patients with services that can help them access preventive services and disease management services more frequently, organizations like NAFC and RAM are limited by the short time-frames of their clinics and the first-come, first-served process that goes hand-in-hand with time and volunteer constraints. However, these pop-up clinics are making a difference in the lives of those that remain uninsured by providing them with quality health care and connecting them to services that will help them to better manage their health care in the future.