Affordable Care Act Impacts Local Free Clinic - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Affordable Care Act Impacts Local Free Clinic

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For seven years, the Good Samaritan Free Clinic has provided free medical office visits for around 12,000 people across the Quad Cities who have jobs, but don't have insurance. Representatives say the Affordable Care Act's insurance mandate caused the facility to permanently close on April 30, 2014. Volunteers ran the clinic, and several foundations and organizations funded it with grants and services.

"This was a way of being good samaritans," GSFC co-founder Regina Bollaert said. "We have a wonderful community here."

The clinic has called four locations home, with Unity Point Healthcare/Trinity as its final facility.

"We didn't have to pay rent," Bollaert said. "Our big expense that we had was helping pay for medications."

Trinity Pharmacy and Allina Clinic Pharmacy helped cover that.

"They provided our patients medications at cost," she said. "Patients paid a small co-pay, and we paid the balance."

Metropolitan Medical Laboratory did all of their tests at no cost, and physicians, nurses, assistants and non-medical volunteers took time away from their other jobs to care for the patients.

"They came and they stayed," GSFC Nurse Manager Marsha Boldt said. "I was always amazed at the different backgrounds that they came, and yet everybody meshed together. It was a definite common cause."

Bollaert says that when the Affordable Care Act's insurance mandate apparently ended their efforts, they encouraged every patient to get signed up for coverage.

"With the Affordable Care Act, everyone is required to have health insurance, and we served working uninsured," Bollaert said. "Six months ago, we started helping our patients as best we could by having a navigator sit in our waiting room at every clinic."

Although the change meant saying goodbye to a good cause, she says having insurance is better for the patients.

"I mean, we saved lives," she said. "We took care of people who had nowhere else to go. They will have more care. However, they still have to pay for that insurance. They still have to pay the deductibles."

She says the co-pays might be difficult for low-income earners who have relied on the free clinic for years; not every former patient has signed up for health insurance. As of May 2, 2014, the federal government is reporting that more than 217,000 people signed up for healthcare through the on-line marketplaces in Illinois. More than 29,000 Iowans signed up for coverage through healthcare.gov.

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