restricted access Free Clinics Helping to Patch the Safety Net

For the uninsured and underinsured with few funds, there are a limited number of health care options. To assist in filling this hole in the safety net, hundreds of free or volunteer-based clinics have been established across the country. Although these clinics have existed for years, little data on them exist. In 1999, a mail survey was sent to free clinics in seven Midwestern states. Findings from this survey show that, in a single year, these 106 clinics provided medical, dental, and pharmaceutical services to over 200,000 patients, suggesting that free clinics nationwide are caring for a substantial number of our nation's uninsured. The survey paints a picture of free clinics, the populations they serve, and the services they provide. Given the lack of options for the uninsured and underinsured, free clinics deserve continued recognition, support, and assistance from policy makers, health care providers, and the philanthropic community.